Maccabi Netanya coach Eli Guttman is expected to meet with club owner Daniel Jammer within the next few days and make a small request: replace the team's goalkeeper and captain Liran Strauber with Maccabi Haifa and Israel under-21 'keeper Tom Almadon.
Relations between Guttman and Strauber took a turn for the worse yesterday morning when the goalkeeper, who earns the club's highest salary, refused to train claiming he was sick.
Guttman, however, had heard that Strauber was out until early yesterday morning at a bar he owns, and banished the goalkeeper from the club's training ground.
The coach would like to see Strauber gone when the transfer window opens next week, but the chances of that happening are low because Jammer would have to pay him significant compensation for his contract, which still has another two and a half years to go.
The answer to Guttman's problems, however, could come from Hapoel Kfar Sava, which dismissed first choice 'keeper Oshri Levi earlier this month after he failed a polygraph test following accusations he had thrown a game against Maccabi Haifa. Kfar Sava had already been close to signing Almadon, but the Maccabi Haifa youngster is said to prefer a move to Netanya.
Strauber called Netanya team manager Gadi Chen yesterday morning, and told him he had come down with a fever and could not attend the training session. Guttman ordered the 'keeper to come in for a check-up with team physician Dr. Marcello Pusnik. Guttman arrived, accompanied by his wife, former Likud MK Inbal Gavrieli. Pusnik failed to find any traces of fever or inflammation, and said that as far he was concerned, Strauber was fit to train.
The Netanya captain, however, stuck with his version that he was unable to train, and Pusnik let him go. Later it transpired that he had taken anti-inflammatory medicine that had reduced his fever.
But Guttman was not impressed. He has been disappointed with the player's performance as well as his lifestyle for some time.
"Strauber doesn't lead a sporting lifestyle," a Netanya player said yesterday. "He's out at all hours, and he jumps at any opportunity to skip training."
Another fellow player agreed. "His form is poor, and he has been responsible for many goals we have conceded."
After Strauber underwent his check-up, Guttman shouted at his captain: "Get your uniform on, and get out on to the pitch; you're training with everyone else." Strauber refused saying he had been given a sick pass by the team physician. "Can't you see I'm not feeling well? Do you want me to harm myself? I can't train," Strauber shot back.
Guttman did not like the response, and told Strauber in front of his teammates: "If you don't want to train, get out of here, and don't come back tomorrow."
Strauber has been suspended until further notice and reserve 'keeper Gal Nir will stand between the posts in Saturday's clash with Maccabi Tel Aviv.
"I told Strauber that I am fully responsible if something happens to him," Guttman explained. "Everyone needs to attend training, and if someone is feeling a little ill, then they still need to train. That's part of their commitment. Do what you can, give a good feeling to the coach and your teammates."
By evening, the storm had died down. The club issued a statement saying that Strauber's suspension would end once he felt better. Strauber said he had been at his bar until 1 A.M., and had gone home because he was not feeling well.
"I'm happy at Netanya, and I want to continue playing there. I behaved as any sick player would, and informed everybody I needed to," Strauber said.
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