Eyal Berkovic (or Berkovich, Hebrew: אייל ברקוביץ'; born 2 April 1972) is an Israeli former footballer who played as an attacking midfielder. He made 78 appearances for Israel, and is considered one of the nation's greatest ever players.
|Full name||Eyal Berkovic|
|Date of birth||2 April 1972|
|Place of birth||Regba, Israel|
|Height||1.70 m (5 ft 7 in)|
|1996–1997||→ Southampton (loan)||28||(4)|
|1997–1999||West Ham United||65||(10)|
|2001||→ Blackburn Rovers (loan)||11||(2)|
|2005–2006||Maccabi Tel Aviv||25||(2)|
|2014–2015||Hapoel Tel Aviv (general manager)|
|* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only|
Graeme Souness described Berkovic as "a tremendous passer. In the last third of the field, he is the best that I've ever worked with." Berkovic was also noted for various several clashes with managers and players, most notably Kevin Keegan (his manager at Manchester City), and Welsh striker John Hartson.
Berkovic started his career at Maccabi Haifa in 1989, playing there until 1996. During his time with the club he won league titles in 1990–91 and 1993–94, and the State Cup three times, including a 'double' in the 1990–91 season. His performances for the club earned him a call-up to the Israeli national team as well as the Most Valuable Player award for the 1993–94 season.
For the 1996–97 season, Berkovic signed on a season-long loan for English club Southampton. He proved to be a big influence, and was a major part of a 6–3 victory in 1996 over Manchester United, as he scored twice and got three assists.
West Ham UnitedEdit
The next season, he was signed by manager Harry Redknapp for West Ham United for £1.75 million, for whom he played for two seasons. Well liked by West Ham fans, he became an instant fans' hero by scoring the decisive goal against Tottenham Hotspur in a 2–1 win on his Upton Park debut on 13 August 1997. He played in 79 games in all competitions, scoring 12 goals.
Striker John Hartson had a prolific 1997–98 season for West Ham helped by Berkovic's assists. In a training ground bust-up between the two, Hartson kicked Berkovic in the face, after the Israeli midfielder had punched Hartson in the leg as he attempted to help Berkovic to his feet after a crunching tackle. The incident was captured on camera. Berkovic said of the incident "if my head had been a ball, it would have been in the top corner of the net". Hartson was fined £20,000 for the incident and suspended for three games.
Soon after the incident, he was signed for £5.75 million by Celtic, who were coached by John Barnes. In November 1999 Berkovic was subjected to religious taunts by Hearts fans while playing at their Tynecastle ground. He played for the Scottish club for two years, scoring ten goals, but Martin O'Neill left him out of the team when he took over as manager and Berkovic returned to England to join Blackburn Rovers on loan for the 2000–01 season, where he scored twice against Queens Park Rangers and Grimsby, helping Blackburn achieve promotion to the Premier League in the process. Berkovic's loan move to Blackburn was not made into a permanent deal. The following year Manchester City's manager Kevin Keegan signed him in a permanent move. During his tenure in Scotland, Berkovic struggled to win over the Celtic fans.
In July 2001, Berkovic joined Manchester City for a reported fee of £1.5 million. He made his debut in August 2001, scoring one goal in a 3–0 home win against Watford. In his second game for the team he suffered an injury which prompted the team to sign Ali Benarbia, an additional playmaker. When Berkovic returned, the City team began to play with both playmakers in a 3–5–2 formation with Kevin Horlock operating in the anchor midfield position. This was a successful formation, earning City promotion in emphatic style, with 99 points and a record 108 goals. In an FA Cup game against then-Premiership team Ipswich Town, Berkovic scored a volley goal set up by Benarbia from a corner and City beat the team in the league above them 4–1.
The following season when City were in the Premiership, Berkovic was instrumental in a 3–1 victory over local rivals Manchester United, a team he had also helped Southampton demolish 6–3 in the 1996–97 season, scoring two goals. The tactic of playing with two playmakers was continued in the Premiership but although City played well, results were not too favourable and Keegan subsequently decided to play with Berkovic as the only playmaker. Berkovic was voted as Manchester City's player of the season in 2002–03 in the club's magazine. Berkovic received abuse from some of the City support when he made a 'throat-slitting' gesture to a female fan during a League Cup tie at Maine Road against Crewe Alexandra. The FA investigated the incident.
A fallout with manager Keegan saw him move to Portsmouth for £500,000 in January 2004. His first game for Pompey was against Manchester City, whom he helped beat 4–2. Berkovic soon established himself in the first team at Pompey where he was reunited with former West Ham United manager Redknapp, who described him as a "special footballer". Berkovic became a vital part of Portsmouth's drive for FA Premier League survival, scoring his first goal against Tottenham Hotspur.
However, despite scoring against Fulham in the league and Leeds in the League Cup, he failed to hold down a regular starting place in the team for the 2004–05 season, and in January 2005 left Portsmouth. He had been linked with a move to Crystal Palace but instead decided to return to the country of his birth. He wanted to return to Maccabi Haifa but was rejected, leading him to a decision to sign for rivals Maccabi Tel Aviv.
The return to Israel opened with promise as the 2005–06 season was the 100th anniversary for Maccabi Tel Aviv F.C. and the club wanted to celebrate with a championship. The club signed several more stars such as Avi Nimni, Giovani Rosso, Blessing Kaku, Avi Yehiel, and Eugen Trica. Berkovic announced at a press conference that the team would go all the way to win the Double. Although the team had a positive start to the season, they were not able to sustain good form and their chances of winning the title diminished, resulting in a sacking of the coach Nir Klinger, who was replaced with Ton Caanen.
Berkovic announced his retirement from professional football on 7 May 2006.
In the summer of 2006 he was appointed as the general manager of Maccabi Netanya. However, he was manager only for two months in which time he did not oversee any games. He stated that he left the job due to poor professional relations with Daniel Jammer, the club's owner and chairman. Berkovic had been an active manager in the transfer market during his two months, signing 15 players including Mazuwa Nsumbu, Liran Strauber and Itay Shechter.
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- "אייל ברקוביץ' רוכש את הפועל ראשון לציון".