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Yossi Benayoun

(1980 - )

Yossi Benayoun is an Israeli-born professional soccer player currently on Queens Park Rangers in the English Championship league.

Benayoun (born May 5, 1980) was born in Dimona, Israel, and started his professional soccer career at age 9. He made his professional debut with Hapoel Dimona at the tender age of 11. By age 14, he had caught the eye of many European scouts, as he led the Israeli youth team to many sensational victories. A year later, he was recruited to the celebrated Ajax Amsterdam Academy, which has produced the likes of Patrick Kluivert, Marc Overmars, and Edgar Davids. At Ajax, Benayoun established an international reputation. In one game for Israel youth, he scored two goals against England, and the London Times proclaimed him the most promising youngster in world football alongside Michael Owen. Ironically, Owen also played in that match and was completely upstaged by the Israeli youngster.

Yossi missed Israel desperately and felt he never did fit in socially in the Netherlands. He returned to the inferior Israeli league and later debuted in the top league with Hapoel Ber-Sheva at age 17 during the 1997-98 season.

In a highly publicized transfer, Benayoun moved to Maccabi Haifa in 1998. That first year, he became the youngest leading scorer in Maccabi history, scoring 16 goals and producing electrifying form along the way. During the 1999-2000 season, Benayoun scored 19 goals and annihilated Paris St. Germain with his stunning performances in the European Cup Winners Cup. It was during this season that Benayoun made his spectacular debut on the senior national team, scoring four goals in his first two international games.

In the 2000-2001 season, Benayoun led Haifa to their first title in seven years and picked up Player of the Year honors. In 2001-02, he suffered a leg injury, and though he was not in top form, Yossi played an important role in a second consecutive title win.

Benayoun scored six goals and made four assists in the top Spanish league with Racing Santander in the 2002-03 season. In 2003-04, Yossi was arguably the best player in Racing Santander. He scored seven league goals in 30 appearances as the Spanish club finished 17th in Primera Liga. Javi Guerrero and Yossi Benayoun's offensive quality were the major factors behind Santanders' survival in the top league.

In July 2005, the English Premier League team West Ham United signed Benayoun for 2.5 million pounds, and the Israeli star made his debut with the team on the opening day of the 2005-06 season. He scored his first premier league goal on September 12, 2005.

In July 2007, Benayoun moved to Liverpool, signing a four-year, 5 million pound contract. Benayoun played for Liverpool through the 2010 season, at which point he was signed by Chelsea. In 2011, Chelsea loaned him to Arsenal, where he appeared in 19 games, and in 2012 he was on loan to West Ham.

In December 2013, Benayound joined the Queens Park Rangers of the English Championship league.

Source: Jews in Sports.