Analysis: The new Gaydamak?

Will Shnaider's purchase of Maccabi Tel Aviv return the glory to the once great club?

Avi Nimni 224.88 (photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Avi Nimni 224.88
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Ever since Alex Shnaider's name was first mentioned in connection with the purchase of Maccabi Tel Aviv soccer club, the team's supporters have hailed the Canadian billionaire as their savior. After 11 erratic seasons on and off the field with former owner Loni Hertzikowitz, the fans were euphoric when the purchase of the club was completed this Wednesday. 'Finally we have an owner of the caliber of Arkadi Gaydamak who will help the team regain its position at the top of Israeli soccer' the team's fans have been telling themselves and anyone surrounding them in the last few days. There are, however, more question marks than answers following the takeover of Maccabi. Shnaider undoubtedly has enough money (his worth has been estimated at $1.8 billion by Forbes magazine) to dominate Israeli soccer if he wishes to do so, but the early indications are that he has no intention of breaking the bank for his new club. Shnaider's most recent involvement in the sporting world also doesn't bode well for Tel Aviv fans. The billionaire is the former owner of the Midland Formula 1 Racing team, which he purchased in 2005. However, after two years at the bottom of the F1 standings, he got rid of the team, selling it to Dutch sports car maker Spyker. Could Maccabi see its new owner walk out on it if things don't go as expected? What if Tel Aviv, which is currently just three points above the relegation zone, finishes in one of the bottom two places and loses its Premier League status at the end of this season. Is Shnaider in for the long run? It's also still unclear what Shnaider's looking to achieve by buying an Israeli soccer club. The Canadian has said that he's looking forward to strengthening his ties with Israel with this move, but that still doesn't answer why he has chosen to do so by purchasing an Israeli sporting icon. There's always, of course, the possibility that like the majority owner of Hapoel Tel Aviv Sami Segol, Shnaider doesn't really have any interest in soccer and sees the club as a contribution to society. Another question that remains to be answered is whether Shnaider will own the club from afar like Segol, giving others the responsibility to run the club, or will he rather take the hands-on approach of Hertzikowitz? The Canadian has yet to speak publicly about Maccabi and was nowhere to be seen when Ozi Shaya, Aviv Bushinsky and David Federman were introduced as the club's new management team in Tel Aviv on Wednesday. So many question, but yet so few answers. Maccabi, and Israeli soccer as a whole, will benefit if all goes well. But with so much still unknown, the Tel Aviv fans should treat the recent happenings with suspicion. After all, Hertzikowitz was also hailed as savior not too long ago, and look how that turned out.