Israel – The Kid called Yossi
He is 27 years old, a successful forward at Liverpool and Israel’s number one footballing idol: Yossi Benayoun. But why do they still call him “The Kid” in his home country?
They still call him “The Kid” in Israel, even though he is now aged 27. The nickname dates back more than ten years to when “lossi Benayoun was just a fresh-faced boy in a man’s world and today, his features remain sufficiently youthful for the name to still stick, even though he is now Israel’s captain and the country’s footballing idol.
For a decade, Benayoun’s skills have been admired as he has progressed up the pyramid of European football: from small Israeli club to large, relegation-threatened Spanish club to mid-ranking Premier League side in England. Finally, in the summer, he reached a pinnacle when Liverpool courted his services and persuaded him to move from West Ham United to a side who are Champions League regulars. Liverpool fans gave him only a tentative welcome at first. Everyone knew he was a half-decent player with unusual and unorthodox attacking skills but was he really the man to take Liverpool on to a new level?
It did not take long for the RecL fans to take him to their hearts though, as they had done in the past with two other Israelis, Avi Cohen and Ronny Rosenthal – two reasons why Benayoun had long been a Liverpool fan. Now they joke on Liverpool’s Kop that Benayoun is the best thing since sliced bread.
When he signed for Liverpool, the expectation was that Benayoun might have to settle for a supporting role in the midfield, such is the competition for places at An field. Within weeks however, head coach Rafael Bcnitez had identified him as one of the key attacking components of his team. Now, whenever Liverpool have a really crucial march, such as the last game of the Champions League group stage in December 2007 when they had to beat Marseille to qualify, Benayoun is a certain starter. He played a hugely important role, too, as Liverpool won 4-0 in the Stade Velodrome. What is more, he had been rested for the previous Premier League game and what happened? Liverpool suffered their first defeat of the season at the hands of Reading.
Bemtez has taken the unusual step of picking Benayoun out as the player who has made a key difference for Liverpool this season, specifically when he missed a match against Birmingham due to a 24-hour fast in observance of Yom Kippur. The match ended 0-0, Liverpool were frustrated, and Benitez said: “For me the key was Benayoun. We couldn’t use him and other players were not playing at their level. Simple.”