Maccabi Tel Aviv have broken the Israeli transfer record by signing Maor Buzaglo for $2.5 million (£1,279,010).
The 20-year-old attacking midfielder was officially on the books of Maccabi Haifa although he made only two appearances for the Greens. He was loaned to Hapoel Petach Tikvah in season 2006/07 and Bnei Sakhnin during the season just completed and was largely responsible for their impressive fourth place finish in Israel’s Premiere League with nine goals.
Buzaglo has signed a four-year contract with Maccabi worth $300,000 (£153,380) a year.
The transfer reflects a major shift in Israeli football where traditionally, significant transfer fees have not been paid. Even when national team captain Yossi Benayoun joined Maccabi Haifa a decade ago, his club, Hapoel Beer Sheva, asked to share any future transfer fees with Haifa if the player moved to Europe.
Buzaglo, who made his international debut in Israel’s 2-1 win over Russia in November in a Euro 2008 qualifier, has been the subject of enquiries from Reading and West Ham in recent months.
But he will only qualify for a UK work permit when he has played in 75 per cent of Israel’s games meaning that he will not be eligible to play in England until at least November 2009.
But Buzaglo will not be lining up alongside Birmingham midfielder Daniel De Ridder. The Dutch Under 21 international was in Israel last week for negotiations with Maccabi Tel Aviv but discussions barely progressed with the player refusing to leave St Andrews for anything less than his current annual salary of £800,000.
Since Alex Shnaider acquired Maccabi earlier this year, the club’s policy has been to sign the world’s best Jewish players. But negotiations with Derby’s American star Benny Feilhaber and compatriot Jonathan Bornstein have all failed to result in the player moving to Israel.
However, Maccabi have signed two Frenchmen, Rudy Haddad from Paris St Germain and Jonathan Assous from Stade Reims. Another player that will not be joining Tel Aviv is Rangers midfielder Dean Furman.
The former Chelsea player this week committed his future to Rangers, even though Maccabi claimed he was on the brink of a surprise move.
The 19-year-old made his senior debut against Dundee United last month and had been widely expected to make the breakthrough next season. Furman flew to Israel for a holiday and to visit family in Tel Aviv and admitted he was bemused by Maccabi’s interest.
“It’s all news to me,” he said. “There’s nothing in it. I’ve no plans to play in Israel, certainly not at this stage of my career when I’m enjoying myself so much at Rangers.”