Liverpool give trial to Omri Altman
Hodgson drafts in Israeli wonder kid
Maccabi Tel Aviv youth team captain Omri Altman will arrive at Liverpool with a huge weight on his shoulders. Invited by manager Roy Hodgson for a week-long trial, he has been compared to Reds captain Steven Gerrard in his native Israel.
Altman's trial comes just as new Liverpool owner John Henry told Hodgson that he must develop young players rather than buy expensive new ones.
Inevitably Altman, an attacking midfielder who will be 17 in March, will be compared to former Reds favourite Yossi Benayoun, but interviewed recently by a local Tel Aviv newspaper, Altman said: "People tell me I play like Steve Gerrard with my ability to win the ball and score from long range shots."
Gilad Katzav, Altman's agent, said: "We brought a Liverpool Academy scout over to Tel Aviv and now they've invited him to Anfield. We think they'll be very enthusiastic."
If Altman is offered a place at the Liverpool Academy then his parents will move to England. The family also has German citizenship, so Altman will have no problems getting a UK work permit if his long-term future is in English football.
Should he join, Altman would follow in the footsteps of Avi Cohen, Ronnie Rosenthal and Benayoun. Altman said: "I'm very excited and I've got a lot of confidence. Liverpool is a legend and it is a big challenge to follow in the footsteps of the Israelis who have already been at Anfield but my dream has always been to get to the top and I can do it."
Altman has risen through the ranks of the Maccabi Tel Aviv youth system. He scored last Saturday in the 5-0 victory over Bnei Yehuda to bring his season's tally to five goals.
He is also captain of Israel's Under 17 team and has made three appearances and scored in the recent 2-2 draw with Croatia in a Euro 2011 qualifier.
Israel Under 17 coach and former Watford star Alon Hazan said: "Omri has all the characteristics you look for in a player at the highest levels. He has physical fitness, excellent technical ability and the ability to intelligently combine the defensive and attacking aspects of his game. He is not a typical 16-year-old."
Meanwhile, Everton appear to have moved to the front of the queue to sign Israel hotshot Itay Shechter after mega-agent Pini Zahavi joined forces with Ronen Katzav to negotiate a move from Hapoel Tel Aviv.
Last week we reported that West Ham and Spurs were battling it out for Shechter but Everton are tipped to win any bidding war. Liverpool, Spurs and Newcastle are also in the reckoning. West Ham could drop their interest as manager Avram Grant reportedly has reservations about whether Shechter is mature enough to play abroad.
Katzav insists that the Israeli is available at a reasonable price despite the large number of Premier League clubs pursuing the Hapoel Tel Aviv striker. He said: "In Europe they see the Israeli league as weak so no player in Israel is worth more than £1.5m or £2m. There have been a lot of enquiries about Itay but no firm offers."
Sources close to Hapoel insist that the club will not part with him for less than £4m.