Chelsea star Yossi Benayoun on why he turned down Ajax

From Be’er Sheva to the Bridge, Yossi has proved he was always destined for the top

By James Masters, August 12, 2010
Feeling blue: Benayoun made his debut during the 3-1 defeat by Manchester United at Wembley during last weekend’s Community Shield

Feeling blue: Benayoun made his debut during the 3-1 defeat by Manchester United at Wembley during last weekend’s Community Shield

Yosssi Benayoun has lifted the lid on his childhood torment after silencing his doubters with a dream move to Chelsea.

As a teenager, Benayoun was fiercely criticised for turning down the chance to join Dutch side Ajax and supposedly throwing away the opportunity of a lifetime.

At just 16, the talented midfielder was already one of the most talked about youngsters in European football and enjoyed a successful trial with the Amsterdam club.

But Benayoun is adamant he made the right decision to remain in Israel and play for his local side in Be'er Sheva, insisting his success in the 14 years since has silenced his critics.

"I had a good few months with Ajax when I was younger and they wanted me to stay but I felt too young to be at a club like that," he said.

"They offered me a first-team contract for three or four years but I didn't feel ready, so I wanted to go home until I was.

"When I came back from Ajax I got a lot of criticism and there were stories saying: 'He will not be a successful player, he will not make it'.

"But I knew what I was doing, I knew to take it step-by-step and I knew what I wanted.

"So I did that and for me it's a dream to be playing my ninth year in Europe now, from Spain to teams such as West Ham, Liverpool and now to be at Chelsea is just amazing.

"I had a great time at Liverpool, it's one of the biggest clubs, I was privileged to be there and now I'm privileged to be at Chelsea as well. I don't think anyone could complain about such a career. "

Benayoun signed a three-year deal with Chelsea last month after bringing down the curtain on a successful stint on Merseyside.

And the Israel captain says he cannot wait to get going with the Blues, who begin their title defence against West Bromwich Albion on Saturday.

"It's a great feeling to hear you may have the opportunity to play for such a great club as Chelsea so it was a dream move," he added.

"In the past few weeks I've been enjoying every moment here and it's been very easy for me to settle.

"Of course, when you come to a club like Chelsea, you hope to win trophies.

"You know you will have a good chance to do that because the club has proved over the past few years that they are there all the time in every competition - they have won something nearly every season recently.

"But my first aim is just to prove myself and, any chance I get, I have to show that I deserve to be here."

Benayoun also paid tribute to former manager Avram Grant, now at West Ham, who played a key role in his development.

"Avram was there in my last two years at Maccabi Haifa and those were the two years that we won the league after the club hadn't won it for seven seasons," he said.

"I had a good relationship with Avram in those two years and then he moved to the national team. We have been really good friends and I'm happy for him that he is in the Premier League. He has already proved himself and now has a good challenge with West Ham."

Last updated: 11:00am, October 14 2010