Yossi Benayoun – Quick, Skilful, Unorthodox And Successful
The Same Message – It was not the end, however. Maccabi Haifa swooped and Benayoun helped them to the quarter-finals of the 1998-99 UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup and appeared for Israel while still 18. ‘Iwo league titles followed and then finally, with his three years’ national service completed and Mirat now his wife, he moved abroad to Racing Santander in Spain.
Again, Benayoun became a cult figure, scoring 21 goals in 101 league games including a hat crick away at Deportivo La Coruna that helped the club stave off relegation.
West Ham were alerted to his qualities and moved in swiftly, but he had already caught the attention of Benitez, whose interest: was further piqued by Benayouns brilliant performance in the FA Cup final for die Hammers against Liverpool in 2006. Benite? recalls: “I first saw him play for Racing Sanrander in La Liga when he was a really good player, but when he first came to England, we were watching to be sure he could adapt to a different style of football. He was outstanding in the FA Cup final against us and we thought then this was a player who is capable of stepping up to a higher level.”
Benayoun ended the 2006-07 season besieged by offers, not least from West Ham, who were desperate to keep him, but once Liverpool showed their interest there was no other competition. “He was offered a big new contract at West Ham and received offers from a lot of other clubs offering him more money,” adds Benitez. “But Yossi’s message was always the same. He said he was desperate to only join Liverpool because this was his dream … this is the kind of attitude we and our supporters really like. He is a very technical, clever player with a lot of game intelligence. He can also play in many positions, giving us a different option for the team.”
Perhaps the wanderings of this desert nomad can now stop: it looks as though ‘”The Kid” has at last found his spiritual home.