After a summer of speculation, Chelsea has loaned Israeli midfielder to Arsenal for one season. The question is whether the 31-year old can return to the player he once was after suffering a serious injury that sidelined him for most of the last campaign.
The trouble started last season after Benayoun, who signed a lucrative deal with Chelsea last summer, injured his Achilles tendon and didn't return to the pitch for six months. For many players over 30, such a setback is the beginning of the end. Demand drops as recovery time lengthens, and their careers never seem to recover.
The injury was the worst of Benayoun's career and the timing was terrible to boot. Chelsea's coach at the time, Carlo Ancelotti, brought him over from Liverpool for six million pounds and marked Benayoun as an important component for the champions in the wake of a slew of injuries. Benayoun was supposed to be a starter for one of the best and richest teams in the world and believed he would be at Stamford Bridge for years until retirement, but the injury upset his plans.
Instead, Benayoun spent most of his time in physiotherapy. He fully recovered and joined the team for a training camp in the Far East, but once he understood that the new coach, Andre Villas-Boas, was not building on the Israeli being part of the starting 11, he began looking elsewhere.
While he was able to reject generous offers from Russia, France and Turkey, the fact that he signed with Arsenal just before the transfer window closed and only on loan suggests his stock has fallen.
Still, according to Saura Bhattacharjee of the Bleacher Report, Benayoun could be the "saving grace" for a struggling Arsenal which suffered an 8-2 drubbing by Manchester United last weekend. "He performs brilliantly as a utility player with much flexibility and creativity, both of which are the need for Arsenal in their present conditions," Bhattacharjee wrote yesterday.
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