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The Pulpit – Ben Sahar & his return to Israel

Ben Sahar

I’ve got to say, I’m quite surprised to see Ben Sahar returning to Israel. Last week Sahar signed a 3-year deal with upstart Hapoel Beer Sheva who will be playing this coming season in a brand new 16k seat stadium in the southern city.

Here is a player who has been in Europe for a number of years trying to work his way up to the top levels of European football. Sahar has played for no less than 11 (!) teams since 2006 when he was with Chelsea in the English Premier League. For the Stamford Bridge side, Sahar played in only 3 matches and made his debut against Wigan Athletic on January 13, 2007 when he came off the bench in the 82nd minute to replace Arjen Robben.

Sahar then moved around to clubs such as Queen Park Rangers, Sheffield Wednesday, Portsmouth, De Graasfschap while on loan from Chelsea until he moved to Spain to play for Espanyol between 2009-12. His train of teams didn’t stop there as he went on loan to Hapoel Tel Aviv and Auxerre before moving to Hertha Berlin and Arminia Bielefeld. Last year he played for Willem II in Holland where he made 33 appearances and scored 7 goals.

Believe it or not, Sahar is still only just 26 years of age and has plenty in his footballing shoes left and I’m still try to figure out and understand his rational to come back to play in Israel at this stage. He’s young, energetic, has improved over the years and is a true professional in every sense of the word. Logically there is no reason why he came back.

Did he miss Israel? I doubt it as he’s played across Europe for years leaving when he was in his teens. Is the Ligat Ha’Al a more competitive league than some of the other ones he played in from France to Holland to Germany and England? Can’t be.

I think it boils down to two main things for Sahar. He needs playing minutes and he will get them at Beer Sheva. The major negative that Sahar has had over the past few years is the amount of time he’s had on the pitch while playing in Europe. Even with star players such as Maor Bozaglo, Elyaniv Barda, Shlomi Arbeitman and Maor Melikson, Sahar will feature for Beer Sheva and its certain that he will be scouted by clubs in Europe as well.

The other main reason Sahar came back is the salary that he will earn from Alona Barkat, the Beer Sheva owner. The potential earnings in the upcoming year far outweighed any other offered he may have gotten from Europe, so it’s a win-win situation for him. To top it off, Sahar just got married and perhaps that played a factor in his decision to come back to Israel.

Is the move a permanent one for Sahar? My best guess is not. As he’s only 26-years old he has a number of good years left in his footballing career and I would gather that after a good season with Beer Sheva he will probably be headed back out of the country. The three-year contract played in everyone’s favor because if he’s sold, Beer Sheva will make a nice amount of money on his transfer plus he will be guaranteed his salary as is. Not a bad situation for both team and player.

With a game Beer Sheva attempting to catch Maccabi Tel Aviv at the top of the table this coming season and a potential for the club to advance in Europe, the southern side is doing the correct thing in bringing in a solid striker to expand their offensive corps.