Yossi Benayoun, possibly the best soccer player Israel has ever produced, announced Thursday that he would retire at the end of this season after a long and prosperous career that saw him star in some of Europe’s best squads.
Benayoun, who will turn 39 next month, will become the professional manager for his current team, Beitar Jerusalem, the club said in a statement.
The attacking midfielder played abroad from 2002 to 2014, including for England’s Liverpool in 2007-2010 and later for Chelsea, which loaned him to Arsenal and West Ham.
He has consistently been on Israel’s national team since 1998 and is the record-holder for most appearances — 102. He is tied for second in goals scored for the national team with 24.
Benayoun, who hails from the southern town of Dimona and joined Ajax Amsterdam’s youth academy at the age of 15, began his adult career in 1997 with Hapoel Beersheba and Maccabi Haifa before he moved on to Racing Santander in Spain and then to England.
In 2014 he returned to Israel and has since played for four top-tier teams, including Beitar.
“The truth is that nothing I experienced over my career prepared me for the decision to stop playing,” Benayoun said Thursday in a farewell Instagram post. “Soccer has been a part of me from the day I learned to walk. I am happy with my soccer journey, from small Dimona through Beersheba and Haifa, 12 years of Europe and back to my country.
“I never quit the national team because I was always willing to show up for it. Representing my nation, wherever I was, was an integral part of my pride. It is important for me to thank the fans: you gave me love wherever I went. I truly love you, appreciate every such moment and cherish it to my last day.”