Benayoun, Yossi : Jews In Sports @ Virtual Museum

Benayoun, Yossi

Benayoun is playing for top division Spanish club Racing Santander alongside several Israeli players. Benayoun's fine form in 2002-03 and 2003-04 showed that he is up to the challenge of playing in Spain, one of the best leagues in the world.

Birth and Death Dates:
b. May 5, 1980

Career Highlights:
Benayoun was a sensational talent from his first appearance in a game. He made his debut in Hapoel Dimona at the tender age of 11. By age 14 he had caught the eye of many European scouts, as he led the Israeli youth team to many sensational victories. A year later he was recruited to the celebrated Ajax Amsterdam Academy, which has produced the likes of Patrick Kluivert, Marc Overmars, and Edgar Davids. At Ajax, Benayoun established an international reputation. In one game for Israel youth, he scored two goals against England and the London Times proclaimed him "the most promising youngster in world football alongside Michael Owen." Ironically, Owen also played in that match, and was completely upstaged by the Israeli youngster.

Yossi missed Israel desperately, and felt he never did fit in socially in the Netherlands. He returned to the inferior Israeli league, and earned himself a reputation as a skillful (but whining) player. He debuted in the top league with Hapoel Ber-Sheva at age 17 during the 1997-98 season. Yossi scored 15 goals, earning unprecedented accolades along the way. His older teammates resented his superior talents, though. They declined to pass the ball to him, and shunned him in the dressing room. Amid this general unpleasantness, the Ber-Sheva squad was relegated.

That season produced an unforgettable moment. In the last game of the year, Benayoun scored a dramatic winning goal, and ran to the stands to celebrate. The fans told him the latest results meant relegation would occur anyway, and the sensitive player collapsed in a sobbing heap.

In a highly publicized transfer, Benayoun moved to Maccabi Haifa, a team desperately hungry for the title after years of failure. That first year, he became the youngest leading scorer in Maccabi history, scoring 16 goals and producing electrifying form along the way. During the 1999-2000 season Benayoun scored 19 goals and annihilated Paris St. Germain with his stunning performances in the European Cup Winners Cup. It was during this season that Benayoun made his spectacular debut on the senior national team, scoring four goals in his first two international games.

In the 2000-2001 season, Benayoun was at his finest. He led Haifa to their first title in seven years, and picked up "Player of the Year" honors. In 2001-02 he suffered a leg injury, and though he was not in top form, Yossi played an important role in a second consecutive title win.

Benayoun scored six goals and made four assists in the top Spanish league with Racing Santander in the 2002-03 season. In 2003-04, Yossi was arguably the best player in Racing Santander. He scored seven league goals in 30 appearances as the Spanish club finished 17th in Primera Liga. Javi Guerrero and Yossi Benayoun's offensive quality were the major factors behind Santanders survival in the top league.

Yossi has been given a major role in attack as Israel campaign to qualify for the 2006 World Cup. On September 8, 2004, Benayoun scored an amazing goal against Cyprus. In the 64th minute, the midfielder burst through on the left wing leaving four defenders in his wake as Israel equalized 1-1. The Israeli national team went on to win 2-1 in Ramat Gan stadium. In an October 10, 2004, match up with Switzerland, Benayoun scored two amazing goals. Israel drew 2-2 in Ramat Gan and the creative midfielder drew praise in the European sports press.

Dimona, Israel

Attacking midfielder, playmaker, winger or supporting forward.

Career Statistics:
55 goals in 134 Israeli league appearances.

2 goals in 12 European competition games.

36 Israeli caps/ 6 goals

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