Yossi Benayoun will always be remembered as one of the very few Israeli’s to represent West Ham United, doing so in two spells between 2005 and 2007 and then again in 2013, winning the affection of the Claret & Blue Army time and time again with his dazzling play on the wing.
But, what were the skillful midfielder’s most memorable moments in Claret & Blue? How did his two stints at Upton Park come to their ends? And, more importantly, where is he now?
Israel’s most recognisable Footballing talent was born in Dimona in May 1980, later in his career nicknamed “The Dimond From Dimona” his first professional club were Hapoel Dimona.
Benayoun enjoyed a busy youth career, moving on to Hapoel Be’er Sheva, Ajax and then back to Sheva, whom he first appeared in the first-team for in his late teenage years.
Whilst a young player, he was something of a sensation in his homeland, making the covers of Magazines and appearing on Television shows due to his talent.
But, after a successful four years in Israel, he was begging to draw attention from further afield in Europe, earning a wealthy move to Racing Santander in 2002.
In La Liga, he flourished, steadily improving as the seasons went on, both his goal and assist tally, by the end of the 2004/2005 campaign, he was attracting plenty of attention from English clubs.
Alan Pardew was the man to persuade Santander to cash in, signing Benayoun for a fee of around £2.5 million, making his Premier League debut on the opening day of the 2005/2006 season.
Benayoun enjoyed a largely successful first season in England, appearing 43 times for club and Country and netting five times in Claret & Blue including a Goal of the Season-contending chip against Fulham.
Benayoun also scored in the infamous final day triumph over Tottenham Hotspur to deny Spurs a Champions League place, before featuring in an FA Cup Final, losing out to future team Liverpool in Wales.
During his second campaign in East London, the hammers were embroiled in a Relegation fight, completing what was dubbed “The Great Escape”, as they beat the odds to stay in the Top-Flight.
Benayoun’s goals and creative play proved a key component in the survival and a move to a bigger club seemed written in the stars after the final day win at Old Trafford.
However, it came in controversial circumstances after a supposed verbally-agreed new contract in East London was ignored as Benayoun signed up for Rafa Benitez’s Reds.
On Merseyside, the wide man went from strength to strength, playing in the Champions League on a regular basis and being named the Captain of the Israeli National Team just a year later.
The highlight of Benayoun’s three-year Anfield spell came in February 2009 when he netted the winner in a Champions League last 16 tie away at Real Madrid.
Though the only thing that was missing for the Israel man was silverware, something that he looked to find elsewhere in the summer of 2010, making the move back to the Capital with Chelsea.
By this stage, his powers were beginning to fade ever so slightly, he would only make around 15 appearances for the Blues, although his spell did include two loans.
The first of them was to another “Big Six” team in the form of Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal, he impressed at the Emirates, even captaining the side at stages, spending the entirety of the 2011/201 in North London.
Upon return to Stamford Bridge, the midfielder embarked on yet one more spell away, not too far, however, a fairy-tale move back to Upton Park under Sam Allardyce.
Injuries were regular at this point for Benayoun and a major one in his hamstring meant that he could only notch one in only six showing back in Claret & Blue, returning to Chelsea, under former Boss Benitez, in winter 2012.
Back with the Spaniard, Benayoun played out his final six months in West London and there would be just reward waiting at the end of it, a Europa League Winner’s medal having helped Chelsea to glory over Benfica in the Final.
A few months later, Benayoun hooked up with Queens Park Rangers for his English Football curtain call, not able to save the club from Relegation back to the Championship at the end of the 2013/2014 season.
Although the Israel star’s final PL spell ended in disappointment, he did leave England with a unique and quite remarkable record, he is still the only player in history to have notched hat-tricks in the English Top-Flight, FA Cup and Champions League.
After departing England, he returned to Israel once more to live out the final years of his playing career, with first Maccabi Haifa again and then Maccabi Tel Aviv, well into his 30s.
Incredibly, nowadays, at the age of 37, the Israeli legend is still playing Professionally in the Capital City with Beitar Jerusalem and still being capped for Israel.
Yossi Benayoun may have missed out on being in the same bracket as the Hammers Legends at West Ham, but no doubt could have gone on to be one, perhaps he just had a little bit too much quality for the Boleyn Ground at that time, like so many others.