Eran Zahavi is the successor of Sam Lammers at PSV. On Sunday, the club announced the arrival of the 33-year-old Israeli, who has signed a two-year contract
“He is one of the best international players in China. And if you can score there, you can do it in the Netherlands as well” Thats what PSV trainer Roger Schmidt said on Friday at the press conference on Zahavi, which comes across as transfer-free from the Chinese Gangzhou R&F.
That the club from Eindhoven has millions left over for an Israeli striker from the Chinese league may seem crazy. But with Zahavi, PSV has achieved a true goal phenomenon. Everyone agrees on that.
At Maccabi Tel Aviv he scored 122 goals in 157 matches. In China he scored 103 times in 117 matches. And with Israel he scored 12 goals in 14 duels in the last two years. Those are dizzying numbers, no matter how you turn it around.
As trainer of Beijing Gouan himself, Schmidt saw him shine every week. In four matches Zahavi scored five goals against Schmidts team.
Jordi Cruijff and Peter Bosz know him from their time together at Maccabi Tel Aviv. And for his current form, PSVs scouting department was able to call on Giovanni van Bronckhorst, the coach of Guangzhou R&F.
And Yann-Benjamin Kugel, Schmidts assistant at PSV, undoubtedly whispered something about his experiences with the captain of the Israeli national team.
Kugel was sitting on the bench next to the Austrian national coach Andreas Herzog as an assistant when Zahavi helped Israel win a historic 4-2 victory in Herzogs homeland. He made three – one with the head, one with the shoulder and one with an unparalleled distance shot – and also gave the assistant for the fourth.
Reason for national coach Herzog to say afterwards: “Im sure Zahavi can compete in all competitions“
For Austria it was the second consecutive defeat in qualifying for the later postponed European Championships of 2020. But the team recovered – partly thanks to a 3-1 revenge on Israel in Vienna (goal Zahavi) – and we now know that Marko Arnautovic and his men will be one of the opponents of the Dutch in that European Championship.
Israel finished disappointingly fourth in the group. With eleven hits – including a second hat-trick, now against Latvia – Zahavi finished second in the top scoring list of the European Championship qualification: one less than Harry Kane, as much as Cristiano Ronaldo.
Why is Zahavi so good? Hes not a fine-tuned technician, spinning his opponents around in the small room. He prefers not to stand in the crowded penalty area at all, he gets there. And therein lies above all the quality of the Israeli right leg: he has an eye for space, likes to move between the lines and remains remarkably calm for the goal.
Football International spoke with Peter Bosz, who had Zahavi under his care at Maccabi Tel Aviv in 2016. Its a winner, a leader and a goalkeeper, said Bosz. “Hes not the best football player Ive worked with. Nor the fastest, the biggest or physically the strongest. But he is a great goalkeeper”
Isnt there any blemish on Zahavi? Yes, Zahavi has never proven himself in a big league. Between 2011 and 2013 he was under contract with Palermo. In Serie A, the born goalgetter only scored two goals in 23 matches.
Zahavi returned to Israel, where Jordi Cruijff recruited him to Maccabi Tel Aviv. Rival Hapul Tel Aviv, the club where Zahavi was trained and where he earned a transfer to Palermo, had a repurchase option but did not use it.
Hapoel would regret this. With 29 goals, Zahavi played a leading role in the Maccabi land title. And in the Tel Aviv derby he made it 1-1 out of a penalty kick. What happened after that would pass the world by.
The Hapul-supporter, who attacked Zahavi, got quite a beating. The striker himself handed out a few punishing kicks. It hit him on a red card, after which the flame went completely out of control and the match was stopped.
And thats not the only thing. More than a week ago, Zahavi was shackled after complaints about noise nuisance from his Israeli home. The striker, who had made the equaliser in the Nations League match with Scotland the day before, celebrated that success a little too exuberantly and then raged against the cops.
The transfer had to be made quickly anyway. Zahavi has been in Israel for the last few days and has been in lockdown again since last Friday because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Zahavi is in the rush to get round that obstacle as well. Hidden between the lines, only to strike mercilessly afterwards. In Eindhoven.