Israel and Chelsea midfielder Yossi Benayoun has accused his own team’s supporters of anti-Semitic abuse during a recent Premier League match against Liverpool.
In an interview with the Daily Mail, Benayoun claimed that, as he was warming up to come on a substitute during Chelsea’s 2-2 draw at Anfield, traveling fans called him a “little Jew and worse.”
“I was warming up, getting ready for the substitution, when I started getting it from one or two fans,” he told Haaretz. “There were threatening words like ‘little so and so Jew’ and other stuff that was worse. I had never encountered anything like that before in all my career. I have played in Spain and the Premier League, and all over the world with the Israel national team, but I’ve never had that.
“I suppose you have to accept there are racist supporters throughout the world who can target you at any time, but it’s still not nice. I complained about it to Chelsea officials, and they said they would investigate, along with the police.”
Looking ahead to the future, Benayoun was careful to keep nearly all his options open. While there have been reports that he is interested in a move to the United States, the 33-year-old midfielder still believes he can play in Europe − and he categorically ruled out a return to Israel.
“We will see what happens, but it would not be easy for me to leave England and the Premier League,” he told the Daily Mail. “I know I can still do a job at this level, and it has to help that I am on a free. I am not afraid of a new challenge or of dropping down to a club in the lower reaches of the division. I love a challenge, and I still have a big desire to succeed in the Premier League.
“I will never go back to play in Israel. I want to finish my career in Europe, and I still firmly believe I can make a difference for a side in England. All I ask is it is a club who will give me an important role and expect big things from me, because that is the sort of project that will excite me and get the best out of me.”
Reports from the United States, meanwhile, say that Benayoun is angling for a move to the MLS, after almost signing for New York Red Bulls last year.
“I’m in talks with several European teams. I’m checking out the options, but to tell you the truth, America is one of my favorite options,” Benayoun told the New York Post.
“I’m trying do everything I can to come to America and to play in MLS, and hopefully it works out in the next few weeks. Of course New York would be great. But Chicago, Los Angeles − America has a lot of options.”
Benayoun’s agent, Ronen Katzav, admits they are weighing up a number of offers for his services from European clubs, but, having already come close to signing for New York Red Bulls, the MLS remains the Israeli’s preference, he says.
“Last season he was very close to signing with Red Bull, and now we are checking our options. Normally they were very interested with us,” Katzav told The Post. “We also have options in Europe, of Spain, Germany, of course England. But we’re trying to change a little bit the mentality of life a little bit from Europe.”