Hap TA deals with Tamuz drama ahead of match with Ashdod

Striker rejoins teammates in training, but not before blaming the club for torpedoing his transfer to AS Monaco.

Toto Tamuz 311 (photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Toto Tamuz 311
(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Just when it seemed that matters at Hapoel Tel Aviv were beginning to settle, Thursday provided another chapter in the never-ending melodrama at the club.
Toto Tamuz rejoined his Hapoel teammates in training on Thursday, but not before blaming the club for torpedoing his transfer to AS Monaco.
The 23-year-old striker, who led the Premier League with 21 goals last season and has already scored 13 this term, had initially agreed to join Monaco on a long-term deal believed to be worth in the region of 800,000 euro a season.
He flew out to France on Monday morning to complete his move to the Ligue 2 club purchased last month by Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev, but after further negotiations decided to remain with Hapoel, saying: “I chose to make a professional choice rather than a financial one”.
However, while he didn’t address the issue in person on Thursday, Tamuz told friends that he accepted an improved offer after turning down Monaco’s first proposal and that it was Hapoel which nixed the transfer, making frivolous demands, requesting for example that the 1.5 million euro transfer fee be paid in advance.
Hapoel dismissed the claims, saying it was Tamuz who decided he wanted to remain at the club until the end of the season.
Regardless of who is telling the truth, the transfer saga was the last thing the Reds needed after a month in which coach Dror Kashtan was stunningly sacked and the backbone of the club’s management resigned simultaneously in protest of owner Eli Tabib’s running of the club.
The fans have also mounted an on-going campaign to oust Tabib, but in the meantime, the team has dropped well behind Ironi Kiryat Shmona in the title race.
Hapoel can close to within seven points of Kiryat Shmona when it hosts third-placed Ashdod SC at Bloomfield Stadium on Saturday.
Tel Aviv won consecutive league matches for the first time in almost two months by beating Hapoel Petah Tikva 3- 2 last week and will be looking to put a little pressure on Kiryat Shmona, which only hosts reigning-champion Maccabi Haifa on Sunday.
Ashdod has only won once in its past six matches, but it will be looking to expose Hapoel’s leaky defense on Saturday, with Tel Aviv conceding eight goals in coach Nitzan Shirazi’s first three games.
Tel Aviv added left-back Yigal Antebi to its squad earlier this week, but the 37-year-old veteran is not a player who can settle Shirazi’s defense.
“We are in a situation in which we can’t afford to drop points,” Shirazi said. “We need to string together a run of victories to regain confidence and get the club back on track.
“Of course we would rather only talk about soccer and not about everything else going on at the club, but nevertheless, I have no regrets about joining Hapoel.”
Also Saturday, the new-look Betar Jerusalem hosts Bnei Sakhnin at Teddy Stadium.
Eran Levy, Haim Megrelashvili and Nigerian Harmony Ikande all joined Betar this week, signings coach Yuval Naim is hoping will help the team get back on course after last week’s 2-0 defeat at Hapoel Rishon Lezion.
Betar is just three points above Hapoel Haifa and the relegation zone, with Haifa surely confident of picking up all three points when it hosts Hapoel Petah Tikva on Saturday.
Hapoel Beersheba, which is one point in front of Haifa, welcomes Maccabi Netanya on Saturday.
Elsewhere, Maccabi Tel Aviv visits Maccabi Petah Tikva, Bnei Yehuda hosts Hapoel Ramat Hasharon and Eyal Lachman guides Rishon Lezion for the first time when it travels north to play Hapoel Acre.