After a historic run at Maccabi Tel Aviv, including 3 league titles, the 2015 treble, 2015 Champions League qualification, and a stunning 98 goals in 117 matches, Eran Zahavi completed a transfer from the Middle East to the Far East in late June, joining Chinese club Guangzhou R&F on a 30-month, $12.5 million contract. Maccabi also collected an $8 million transfer fee, of which $2.5 million was shared with Hapoel Tel Aviv based on the terms of Zahavi’s rights being transferred from Hapoel to Maccabi three years ago.
Guangzhou, located 75 miles northwest of Hong Kong, is China’s third largest city, behind only Shanghai and Beijing, with a population of over 12 million. Guangzhou R&F (which actually stands for Rich and Force, no joke) is currently in 7th place in the 16-team league (6-4-7, 22 points), 20 points behind crosstown rivals Guangzhou Evergrande (13-3-1/42)
Zahavi wasted no time ingratiating himself to the Guangzhou fans, scoring a goal and assisting on another in his first game on July 2, a 4:2 win over Shijiazhuang. And with a $20,000 bonus per goal, you can bet Zahavi’s big smile in the video below was not only for the goal, but also his bottom line.
Zahavi’s departure on the heels of Maccabi’s failed season leaves a hole that will be hard for Maccabi to fill. With the greatest goal-scorer in Israeli history gone, and with Hapoel Beer Sheva having snatched the league title from them, Maccabi will be facing a difficult task in 2016-17. The additions of Yossi Benayoun (now 36) and Eyal Golasa (24) in the midfield should be a small upgrade, but the offensive burden will now fall to Orlando Sa, Barak Itzhaki, Tal Ben Haim, and Eden Ben Basat… not exactly a lineup of Galacticos. Maccabi, with the $6.5 million from the Zahavi transfer, should be looking to make a move for a #10 before the Ligat Ha’al season kicks off in August.
Maccabi Tel Aviv advanced to the second round of Europa League qualifying with a 4:0 aggregate win over FC Gorica. They face FC Kairat Almaty on July 14 in Kazakhstan, and July 21 in Netanya.