Maccabi Tel Aviv has decided that they are going to compete with the big boys, and I’m not referring to those clubs that are in Israel. After advancing to the group stages of the illustrious and lucrative UEFA Champions League, the Yellow-and-Blue opened up the purse strings and went out to sign a top flight goalkeeping prospect in Serbian Predrag Rajkovic from Red Star Belgrade. A move that was definitely so-unIsraeli it was frightening.
With this one single signing the Israeli football landscape was altered forever. Maccabi owner Mitch Goldhar, Sporting Director Jordi Cruyff and CEO Martin Bain cast the die that could potentially turn the club into a side similar to group stage opponent Porto or Champions League regular Olympiakos. A team that will be in the star laden tournament year in and year out, developing and nurturing young talent while also profiting on those studs through the transfer market.
This is the key to success for the club in the world at large as transfers will most importantly become a line item on the revenue side of the budget while allowing the club to be able to compete on the grandest stage with the likes of, Athletico Madrid, Roma, Wolfsburg, Lyon, PSV and others. Perhaps not with the elite teams such as Real Madrid, Barcelona or Manchester United, but we will certainly see how Maccabi will stack up against Premier League champions Chelsea in just a few weeks.
For a nice sum of money, Maccabi has bought the services of a can’t miss keeper prospect that in a few years will probably be sold for a tidy profit. By doing this, the club has announced to the football landscape across Europe that they are now serious players in the international transfer market and have the assets to be able to not only upgrade themselves but also position the club as a European footballing power for years to come.
The two draws against Swiss club Basel allowed Maccabi to be looked at in a totally different light. Even though they didn’t defeat their continental nemesis over the past few years, Serbian mastermind Slavisa Jokanovic outsmarted and out coached his rival Urs Fischer and showed his compatriots that guiding Watford last season to Premier League promotion his was not shear luck; he has a brilliant tactical brain and knows exactly what he needs to get out of his players.
For youngster Rajkovic did this help in his decision to move to Maccabi? Certainly. Is the fact that Jokanovic is a fellow landsman? Of course. The guarantee of being the Yellow-and-Blue’s Champions League starting goalkeeper at 19 years of age? Check. Is Rajkovic’s former club in financial difficulties and did they need an injection of much needed cash that Maccabi had while German outfit Augsburg didn’t? Absolutely.
All of the above played into the move, but the bottom line is that Maccabi was able to outbid, outmaneuver and outclass its competition on the pitch and off of it. This will now be repeated for years to come.