Berkovic, Eyal : Jews In Sports @ Virtual Museum

Berkovic, Eyal

Berkovic, a midfielder, played in the English Premier League for many years and ranks among the greatest Israeli players of all-time. Eyal signed for Maccabi Tel Aviv and will play for the club in the 2005-06 season.

Eyal's future in the Israeli national squad is in doubt, since coach Avraham Grant left him out of the squad to face Croatia on August 18, 2004. Grant commented that "Eyal is a great player, but we must travel a new road. He is not an ordinary player, and is also a friend, but there is little that can be done."

Birth and Death Dates:
b. Feb. 4, 1972

Career Highlights:
After growing up in the Maccabi Haifa club, Eyal played for the youth team from 1980-1989, and for the senior club from 1992-1996. During his time with Haifa, Berkovic scored 25 goals in 128 games and helped lead Maccabi Haifa to three championships, one Toto-Cup, and was named Israel League MVP in 1994. In October 1996, Eyal went over to the English Premier League, one of the top leagues in the world, to play for Southampton. He appeared in 28 games and scored four goals during the 1996-97 season.

In the summer of 1997, Eyal transferred to West Ham United as the club rushed to sign him before he returned to Israel for the summer. West Ham managing director Peter Storrie said, "It involved a mad dash to Heathrow [Airport] but it was well worth it. Berkovic is a tremendous little player who absolutely murdered us at The Dell last season." West Ham manager Harry Redknapp was thrilled to have a player of Berkovic's ability in the midfield and said of the Israeli, "He is very much a team player who works hard as well as having ability. He is a grafter and there are no problems from that point of view."

Berkovic played two seasons for the club, appearing in 64 games and scoring during his time with West Ham. After an ugly training ground assault by John Hartson, which was caught on tape, Berkovic left the English side, and signed with the Scottish club, Celtic. On August 7, 1999, Eyal became one of the highest paid players in the Scottish League when Celtic paid an astonishing 9.3 million dollar transfer fee for his services (the amount was both an Israeli and Scottish record). Berkovic joined one of the most successful teams in the Scottish League, and had a hat trick during a 7-0 Celtic victory in a UEFA Cup match (July, 2000). When Celtic manager John Barnes was fired, Eyal's playing time diminished under the club's new manager Martin O'Neill.

After a three-month stint with the Blackburn Rovers, Berkovic signed with Manchester City in July, 2001. Although he injured his hamstring in the second game of the year and missed six weeks, he teamed brilliantly with Ali Benarbia in the midfield and scored eight goals as City captured the Division One title and qualified for the Premier League for the following season. During the 2002-03 season, City finished in ninth place in the Premier League to qualify for the 2003-04 UEFA Cup.

During the 2002-03 season, Eyal's finely honed playmaking skills helped Manchester City to a ninth place finish in the English Premier League, despite the team's defensive deficiencies. Manchester qualified for the UEFA Cup in 2003-04 because of their ninth place finish. It was rumored during the summer of 2003 that Eyal was on the verge of joining newly promoted side Portsmouth, but at the beginning of the 2003-04 season, Berkovic rode the pine in Manchester City.

On January 4, 2003, City boss Kevin Keegan told Berkovic he was free to leave the club if he received an offer from another side. Keegan had previously declined attempts by Portsmouth to sell Berkovic, but with an abundance of midfielders, Keegan relented. Berkovic, who asked for a transfer prior to the 2003-04 season, signed with Portsmouth on January 9. The playmaker had scored 9 goals in 67 appearances for city, but left in acrimonious circumstances. The following day, Eyal and his new club played Manchester City and won the match, 4-2. Berkovic failed to make a great impact in Harry Redknapp's team and scored 1 goal in 11 league appearances at Pompey. Portsmouth finished 17th in the Premier League in 2003-04 and narrowly avoided relegation. The midfielder had a contract for 2004-05 but could not get much playing time.

Berkovic left Portsmouth after severe disagreements with his manager Harry Redknapp. The Israeli star summoned a press conference on February 16, 2005, and claimed he left because "I couldn't stand the manager's face anymore."

After a spat of negotiations with several top Israeli clubs including Hapoel Tel Aviv, Betar Jerusalem and his boyhood club Maccabi Haifa, Berkovic announced he was signing for Maccabi Tel Aviv on March 29, 2005. The playmaker said that he "is happy to join this tremendous club with it's excellent supporters. I hope to see the crowds return in droves because that is my goal."

Haifa, Israel

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