Maccabi Tel Aviv are Back-to-Back Champions as each Vladimir Ivic once again showed that he along with his squad are way above the Israel Soccer League. The question is now, is what is next. What is next for Ivic, what is next for Maccabi, what is next for Israeli soccer. So I’ll take it one by one.
1) Ivic is most likely heading to an another club at the end of this season. After two years at the helm of the Yellow & Blue, Ivic has absolutely mastered the league and there really isn’t anything more he can do other than win yet another title or two. Obviously, Ivic faltered in getting Maccabi into European competition in both of the seasons and he did not win the State Cup, but his style has been dominant, plain and simple. The immediate challenge is to now complete an undefeated season. Can he do it? We will find out in about 2 weeks.
2) Maccabi will need to look for a new coach and names for a potential new boss have been few and far between. In addition, the club has yet to find a replacement for CEO Ben Mansford who returned to England. Do the Yellow & Blue already have a candidate or two lined up? That’s a good possibility. But one thing is certain, the club will have to move quickly because once the current campaign ends, the next one will be right around the corner and that will force owner Mitch Goldhar and his right hand man Jack Angelides to do what they need to do immediately.
3) As for Maccabi, they will have to make a number of personnel changes as it is doubtful that the pair of players that are currently suspended and under investigation will not return. In addition, some contracts will be coming to an end and some will be renewed like Avi Rikan and others won’t be. It looks like Enric Saborit may be heading out and it will be interesting to see if owner Mitch Goldhar will look to sell a couple of players with Yonatan Cohen potentially bringing in quite the windfall. Maccabi is still under certain spending restrictions due to financial fair play and that will play a factor as to how much they can spend as they build a new squad.
4) How about the rest of the league? Well, as has unfortunately been the case over the past decade, the level of play has continued to decline and that is definitely not a good thing. However, perhaps some kind of positive can come out of the whole coronavirus pandemic and maybe just maybe Israel will be able to attract some players to come to ply their trade in the Holy Land instead of another European country which may not have the funds to pay them to be insurance policies or play in a lower division. That to me will be interesting to see because if we can bring in some quality foreigners that should raise the level of the league and are the local Israeli players a bit better. This is something that was seen back in the mid-2000s and would be a welcome change instead of bringing in players who juts don’t have the quality to raise the level of a team.
5) Credit to Nes Ziona and their coach Lior Zada who have really shocked everyone by leapfrogging Kiryat Shemona out of the relegation zone. I don’t think anyone would have believed that it was possible that Nes Ziona wouldn’t be relegated but here they are in position to remain in the top division for another season. I love how Zada put it, “We have said the entire season that every game is like a State Cup Final. So now we will go into the game on Thursday against Kiryat Shemona focussed on the goal at hand. I’m proud of the players as everyone had already relegated us but we are still here.” Thursday really is for all of the marbles. If Nes Ziona wins they are up, should they lose Kiryat Shemona stays in the Premier League.
6) Can Beitar Jerusalem play any worse soccer? Probably, but boy can’t they wait for the end of the season; it can’t come soon enough for the Yellow & Black. Roni Levy’s team are winless so far in the Championship playoffs and are struggling to secure a European spot for next season, however, it does look like they will back into one as Beer Sheva is still 6 points off of 3rd pace Beitar with only 3 games to go. It doesn’t seem to be a surprise that Levy will be looking for a new job after the season ends due to the poor job the squad has done under him, but once again Yossi Benayoun also deserves some of the blame for not having signed a proper striker. Where does Levy’s future lie you ask? Could be with the Israel National Team. With Andi Herzog out as coach, there is an opening and Levy could be a good choice for the Blue & White and a better option I believe than Yossi Abuksis who is currently with Hapoel Beer Sheva. There’s no question that the offseason will be fast and furious.
7) Another area where the offseason may be a bit crazy is Maccabi Netanya where the dynamic duo of Slobodan Drapic and Shai Barda seem to be coming to an end. The two headed coaching monster has been successful up until now, but as Drapic said after a brutal 5-2 defeat to Ashdod, that they can’t until the season just comes to an end already. Sooner rather than later. Drapic will get his wish very, very soon, but there may need to be plenty of changes. The owner of the club Eyal Segal has said that he wants to leave but won’t do so until there is someone who can fund the club, but that also brings in some uncertainty which could lead to signing issues. Bu the biggest problem the club has all season was that Almog Cohen who returned to Israel after playing many years in Germany never lived up to his billing and was a weak link throughout the disappointing campaign. There will be changes for the Diamond City Squad, some may be drastic.