Maccabi Tel Aviv soccer star Eran Zahavi, the Israeli Premier League record holder for goals scored in a season, announced Wednesday that he will join the Chinese club Guangzhou R&F on a $12.5 million contract over the next two and a half years.
Maccabi is to receive $8 million for Zahavi, reportedly the most lucrative transfer ever involving an Israeli sports club. Zahavi, an attacking midfielder who has made 31 appearances for the Israeli national team, will receive a $20,000 bonus for each goal he scores.
“Today I start a new chapter in my career,” Zahavi, 28, wrote on Instagram next to a photo of himself in his former team’s uniform. “I decided to post a photo of myself in a Maccabi Tel Aviv shirt because the first thing I want to do is to thank the club for the most amazing and beautiful three and a half years of my career.”
Zahavi is the second Israeli player to compete in China. Liron Zarko, formerly of Hapoel Beersheva, joined Chongqing Lifan in 2009 and returned to Israel the following year to play for Bnei Sakhnin.
Zahavi was named the Israeli Footballer of the Year in 2013 and 2014, having scored a record 29 goals in the Israeli Premier League. During the 2015–16 season, he achieved an all-time league record of 35 goals.
“We are all saddened by Eran’s departure and will miss him greatly,” Maccabi Tel Aviv Sports Director Jordi Cruyff said in a statement. “I wish him all the best and hope that one day he will come home to Maccabi again.”
Zahavi’s Instagram post included a promise to return one day to Maccabi Tel Aviv. “No matter what happens, it will always stay in my heart,” he said.
Watch highlights from Zahavi’s goal-scoring record season.
[Photo: ניר קידר – Nir Keidar / WikiCommons ]