Coach Dror Kashtan quit Hapoel Petah Tikva yesterday and looks set for a return to Hapoel Tel Aviv after a season away from the club after Israel assistant coach Moshe Sinai decided he would not take the job and would stay on as Avraham Grant's assistant on the national team.
The Kashtan-Sinai affair was not the only drama at Hapoel Tel Aviv yesterday. Until late last night, the take over of the club by a group of businessmen fronted by Moni Harel, a close associate of Sinai, looked to be on the verge of collapse.
However, shortly before midnight the club issued a statement to the press saying that the deal had been completed.
Harel also issued a statement in which he said, "We will begin working next week. As yet there is no coach and there are no players. All the names that have been floated are pure speculation."
Before the negotiations were completed, hundreds of fans gathered outside the home of Moshe Teumim, one of the current owners of the club, to protest against Sinai's proposed appointment. Sinai, like Kashtan, is a former coach of the club. However, while Kashtan took the double with Hapoel, Sinai's spell at the club was a disaster.
Sinai, who had been favored for the job because of his connections with Harel, will call a press conference today at which he will announce his decision to stay on with the Israel squad.
"I love the Israel squad and I love Hapoel Tel Aviv," he said yesterday. "I have discussed my deliberations with [Israel Football Association chair] Itche Menahem and have promised him an answer by the morning."
With Sinai out of the running, Kashtan is expected to return to the job he left last year after refusing to take a pay cut.
Kashtan led Hapoel to the league and cup double in his first season in charge in 1999, and then master minded a series of giant-killing performances against Chelsea, Lokomotiv Moscow and Parma as Hapoel reached the UEFA Cup quarterfinals in 2002. He left the club at the end of the 2003/4 season after it managed only fifth place and failed to gain a spot in European competition.
Kashtan remained silent on any renewed connection with Hapoel Tel Aviv yesterday. He was only willing to say that he had left Petah Tikva because he was unhappy after the resignation of chairman Meir Shamir earlier this week and the release of top players against his wishes.
Kashtan, who left with his family last night for a vacation in the United States, said that he would forgo his $130,000 a year contract with the club, which had one more year left to run.
With Kashtan's resignation, Petah Tikva has been thrown into crisis.
Adoram Keisi left the club to return to Maccabi Haifa earlier this week, and Shlomi Arbeitman and Klemi Saban, who both have personal contracts with Shamir, are set to join Keisi with the reigning champions.
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