Avram Grant, the former Chelsea manager, is the favourite to replace Dror Kashtan as head coach of the Israel national team, following the catastrophic home defeat to Latvia that realistically ended the team’s hopes of qualifying for World Cup finals.
Grant, 54, is the preferred choice of Avi Luzon, the Israel FA chairman, who made it clear that Kashtan will not continue for the Euro 2012 qualifying campaign.
Luzon said: “There are many worthy Israeli managers including Avram Grant, who is a personal friend of mine, Ronny Levi and others. All of them would be happy to be with the national team.”
Grant has declined to contradict Luzon and the assumption in Israel is that he would respond positively if offered the job he held from 2002-2005.
Under Grant, Israel remained unbeaten through the 2006 World Cup qualifiers and finished third behind Switzerland on goal difference.
Luzon is keen for a new man to be in place in time for February’s Euro 2012 qualifying group draw. The feeling in Israel is that if Grant sees no employment prospects elsewhere by December, he will agree to succeed Kashtan.
Eyal Berkovic has openly expressed an interest. He is also the people’s choice. A poll by Yediot Ahronot found that 43 per cent of Israeli fans wanted the former Premier League star, while only 25 per cent chose Grant. However, Luzon has ruled Berkovic out, saying: “It is not possible to appoint as coach somebody who was a great player but has never coached.”
Berkovic responded: “The nation wants me. Luzon is not stupid. I will try to change his mind.”
Luzon said that his first choice is Croatia manager Slaven Bilic, although one of Europe’s most sought after young managers would clearly not want to come to Ramat Gan.
Bilic’s agent, Pini Zahavi, was quick to underline this point. “Bilic would be honoured to be offered the Israel job but there isn’t the slightest chance he would accept.”
Many Israelis felt that Kashtan should have resigned immediately after the Latvia defeat, especially because of a spat with captain Yossi Benayoun. The Liverpool midfielder was furious about being substituted in the 66th minute, after Kaspar Gorkss headed the Latvian’s winner. Benayoun admitted swearing at the Israel bench when he was substituted but has since made his peace with Kashtan.
Benayoun said: “I still felt that I could change the game, but it’s every manager’s right to take off who he wants.”
Kashtan, whose contract expires next June, is refusing to step down, saying: “I always honour my contracts.”