Israeli super star striker Eran Zahavi moved from Guangzhou R&F in China this week to the pastures of the Netherlands and PSV Eindhoven to continue his stellar soccer career. After four seasons of obliterating goal scoring records in the Chinese Super League, the 33-year old decided to finally give Europe one more shot after a very short spell back between 2011-13 with Palermo.
Zahavi, who began his professional career with Hapoel Tel Aviv in 2006 was a mainstay for the Reds helping them to a league title, two State Cups and a trip to the Champions League group stages. The Rishon Le’Zion native appeared in 151 games across all competitions for Hapoel and scored 42 goals. His domestic success led him to Italy and an unsuccessful move to Palermo where he made only 26 appearances and scored two goals in a year and a half of service.
Following his time at Palermo, in a shock move, Maccabi Tel Aviv sports director Jordi Cruyff lured back the star to Bloomfield Stadium where he smashed Israeli record after record scoring 127 goals in only 168 games. Zahavi won three Ligat Ha’Al titles in a row between 2013 and 2015, while leading Maccabi to a domestic treble in 2015 plus once again advanced to the Champions League group stages with the yellow-and-blue.
Zahavi then took his talents to China where he played in 117 games, scored 103 markers and was named the league’s most valuable player in 2017 while leading the league in scoring in both 2017 and 2018. In addition to his stellar statistics in China his salary was reportedly over $10 million making him the highest paid Israeli player ever. However one down side to his time with Guangzhou was that his team never finished better than 5th and hadn’t won any type of trophy which certainly prompted his move.
“I missed competing for titles. I’ve had a great time in China, but I want to show my skills one more time in Europe,” said Zahavi after signing a two year deal with the Dutch outfit. “This is a unique opportunity for me. PSV want to win trophies and play attacking football. I am looking forward to the challenge of playing in the Netherlands.”
“I’m already 33 years old and when I was talking to my wife about my new adventure I said that for me when I have these feelings in my heart that I am excited then I know that I made the right decision. I can’t wait it begin preparing with my new teammates. I think that the club has very talented players and my expectations are really high.”
PSV Director of Football John de Jong knows exactly what Zahavi can do for his club and that’s out the ball in the goal, “Eran cannot stop scoring goals. He is a goal scoring machine who is looking to add experience to the young PSV squad.”
Michael Bell, editor of Football-Oranje was excited about the prospect of Zahavi filling the net with goals galore, “I have high hopes for his signing and think he can be a massive success. He may be a bit older but his goal scoring record is great. I think he could be a perfect partner for the more mobile Donyell Malen and I can see him scoring a lot of goals in the Eredivisie because PSV create a lot of chances.”
“Eran Zahavi is a proven goalscorer and among the youngsters of PSV will be a welcome addition,” explained Rik Elfrink from Eindhovens Dagblad. “He is very experienced and the team has missed a goal-getter who has played a lot of international games.”
In soccer, scoring goals is definitely the name of the game and Zahavi knows full well that is one reason why he made the move to Eindhoven, “PSV was an exciting choice for me and it matches my qualities. I am familiar with the coach (Roger Schmidt) from when he was with Beijing and I know his philosophy. So it was a clear decision. As for my qualities it’s to score goals.”
However, just as de Jong mentioned, Zahavi will also be relied upon to work with the younger players explained Bell, “I think Zahavi will be a big help to the clubs younger players and will be able to teach them all he knows. His finishing ability is excellent so something that forward Donyell Malen and the rest could learn. Joel Piroe is another striker at the club while Cody Gakpo and Noni Madueke are young wingers who could pick up a few things too.”
Elfrink echoed the sentiments, “It seems like he is really taking it as a project to also develop young players and not only go for his own chances.”
PSV Coach Roger Schmidt may have been one of the biggest factors in Zahavi’s arrival in Holland. The bench boss had been in charge of Beijing Guoan while the Israeli was with Guangzhou and Schmidt had been enthralled with Zahavi from the first moment he laid his eyes on him even trying to pry him free and have him make the move to northern China.
“He’s a big part as to why I chose PSV,” said Zahavi. “But I can tell you from the first conversations with the club I was really impressed as to how professional the team was as well as the attitude which was very important to me. They gave me me the confidence that they all wanted me, not just the coach. I was really convinced that this was the right place to be at this time and I hope that my decision will be justified.”
“Roger Schmidt knows Zahavi from China and will know he is a player who can score goals in the Dutch league too,” said Elfrink. “Eran Zahavi knows what to do after so many years of playing top football.”
Bell also felt that there was a comfort level that had already existed before Zahavi decided to join PSV and that he would be a perfect fit into the coaches system, “He knows him from his time abroad and will use him at the front in his 4-2-2-2 formation alongside Malen up front. Malen will use his pace, while Zahavi will be more of a typical centre forward.”
The bottom line is that Zahavi has performed magnificently at almost every stop in his illustrious career and PSV won’t be any different in that regard. With his confidence, drive and all around work ethic, the Sabra will also be a hit with his new fans which are allowed in limited numbers into the stadiums in Holland despite COVID-19.
“The fans are excited,” commented Elfrink. “Although some also asked if he is not too old to be at the top at 33 years of age. In the Dutch league it is pretty normal that strikers are between 18 and 23 years. But now that all the fans have seen Eran Zahavi, most are convinced he will impact well on PSV.
Bell feels that this is a perfect match made in heaven for everyone involved, “I think there is excitement at his arrival because his goal scoring record in his career is so good. Fans can’t wait to see how he does!”