|Full name||Eyal Berkovic|
|Date of birth||2 April 1972|
|Place of birth||Regba, Israel|
|Height||1.70 m (5 ft 7 in)|
|1996–1997||→ Southampton (loan)||28||(4)|
|1997–1999||West Ham United||65||(10)|
|2001||→ Blackburn Rovers (loan)||11||(2)|
|2005–2006||Maccabi Tel Aviv||25||(2)|
|* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only.
† Appearances (Goals).
Eyal Berkovic (Hebrew: אייל ברקוביץ', sometimes Berkovich; born 2 April 1972 in Regba) is an Israeli former footballer. He played as an attacking midfielder and a playmaker, making 82 appearances for the Israeli national team. He is a member of the Israeli Football Hall of Fame.
He is known in Israel by the nickname Ha-Kosem (lit. "The Magician").
Berkovic was well known for his vision and incisive passing as a playmaker, as well as for his temperament. He had several clashes with team-mates, most notably the Israeli footballers Reuven Atar and Eli Ohana, Kevin Keegan (his manager when at Manchester City), and Welsh striker John Hartson. His autobiography Ha-Kosem sparked controversy with the Israeli football scene because of its criticism of many of its figures.
Graeme Souness described Berkovic as "a tremendous passer. In the last third of the field, he is the best that I've ever worked with." In 2009, The Times named him as the 10th greatest midfielder in the history of the Premier League.
Berkovic started his career at Maccabi Haifa in 1989, playing there until 1996. During his time with the club he won league titles in 1990–91 and 1993–94, and the State Cup three times, including a 'double' in the 1990–91 season. His performances for the club earned him a call-up to the Israeli national team as well as the Most Valuable Player award for the 1993–94 season.
For the 1996–97 season, Berkovic signed on a season-long loan for English club Southampton. He proved to be a big influence, and was a major part of the famous 6–3 victory in 1996 over Manchester United, as he scored twice and got three assists.
West Ham United
The next season he was signed by manager Harry Redknapp for West Ham United for £1.75 million, for whom he played for two seasons. Well liked by West Ham fans, he became an instant fans' hero by scoring the decisive goal against Tottenham Hotspur in a 2–1 win on his Upton Park debut on 13 August 1997. He played in 79 games in all competitions scoring 12 goals.
Striker John Hartson had a prolific 1997–98 season for West Ham helped by Berkovic's assists. In a training ground bust-up between the two, Hartson kicked Berkovic in the face, after the Israeli midfielder had punched Hartson in the leg as he attempted to help Berkovic to his feet after a crunching tackle. The incident was captured on camera. Berkovic said of the incident "if my head had been a ball, it would have been in the top corner of the net". Hartson was fined £20,000 for the incident and suspended for three games.
Soon after the incident he was then signed for £5.75 million by Celtic, who were coached by John Barnes. In November 1999 Berkovic was subjected to religious taunts by Hearts fans while playing at their Tynecastle ground. He played for the Scottish club for two years, scoring ten goals, but Martin O'Neill left him out of the team when he took over the Glasgow team as manager and Berkovic returned to England to join Blackburn Rovers on loan for the 2000–01 season, where he scored twice against Queens Park Rangers and Grimsby. Berkovic's loan move to Blackburn was not made into a permanent deal. The following year Manchester City's manager Kevin Keegan signed him in a permanent move. During his tenure in Scotland, Berkovic struggled to win over some Celtic fans.
In July 2001, Berkovic joined Manchester City for a reported fee of £1.5 million. He made his debut in August 2001, scoring one goal in a 3–0 home win against Watford. In his second game for the team he contracted an injury which prompted the team to sign an additional playmaker in the form of Ali Benarbia. When Berkovic returned, the City team began to play with both playmakers in a 3–5–2 formation with Kevin Horlock operating in the anchor midfield position. This was a successful formation earning City promotion in emphatic style, with 99 points and a record 108 goals. In an FA Cup game against then-Premiership team Ipswich Town, Berkovic scored a volley goal set up by Ali Benarbia from a corner and City duly beat the team in the league above them 4–1.
The following season when City were in the Premiership Berkovic was instrumental in a 3–1 victory over local rivals Manchester United, a team he had also helped Southampton demolish 6–3 in the 1996–97 season scoring two goals. The tactic of playing with two playmakers was continued in the Premiership but although City were playing well, results were not too favourable to begin with and Keegan decided that he would play with only one playmaker and that that would be Berkovic. Berkovic was voted as Manchester City's player of the season in 2002–03 in the club's magazine. Berkovic received abuse from some of the City support when he made a 'throat-slitting' gesture to a female fan during a League Cup tie at Maine Road against Crewe Alexandra. The FA investigated the incident.
A fallout with manager Kevin Keegan saw him transferred to Portsmouth for the 2003–04 season. Ironically his first game for Pompey was against Manchester City whom he helped beat 4–2. After the game he publicly lambasted Kevin Keegan stating that:
I don't see any reason why Kevin didn't play me because I was the best player in training for six months and everyone knew that. Man City's 45,000 supporters knew I had to play but Kevin was behaving like a big baby. I told him that and I think he deserves the sack.
He also stated that Keegan had lost the dressing room and that the Manchester City players no longer believed in their manager. Keegan responded publicly by saying:
He should learn to keep his counsel. He's entitled to his opinion and he's bitter – but I've no axe to grind. I wished him good luck when he left and tried to make the move as easy as possible as he wanted to go. His comments don't bother me one little bit. I have had worse said about me before and I don't think Eyal will be the only person in my career who says I should be sacked.
Berkovic soon established himself in the first team at Pompey where he was reunited with former West Ham United manager Harry Redknapp, who described him as a "special footballer". Berkovic became a vital part of Portsmouth's drive for FA Premier League survival, scoring his first goal against Tottenham Hotspur.
However, despite scoring against Fulham in the league and Leeds in the League Cup, he failed to hold down a regular starting place in the team for the 2004–05 season season, and in January 2005 left Portsmouth. He had been linked with a move to Crystal Palace but instead decided to return to the country of his birth. He wanted to return to Maccabi Haifa but was rejected, leading him to a decision to sign for rivals Maccabi Tel Aviv.
The return to Israel opened with promise as the 2005–06 season was the 100th anniversary for Maccabi Tel Aviv F.C. and the club wanted to celebrate with a championship. The club signed several more stars besides Berkovic such as Avi Nimni, Giovani Rosso, Blessing Kaku, Avi Yehiel, Eugen Trica and several more. Berkovic himself announced at a press conference that the team would go all the way to win the Double. Although the team had a positive start to the season, they were not able to sustain good form and their chances of winning the title diminished, resulting in a sacking of the coach Nir Klinger. He was replaced with Ton Caanen. Berkovic himself wasn't happy with the form of the team, scoring only two goals and he announced his retirement from professional football on 7 May 2006.
In the summer of 2006, after his retirement from playing professional football, he was appointed as the general manager of Maccabi Netanya. However he was manager only for two months in which time he did not oversee any games. He stated that he left the job due to poor professional relations with Daniel Jammer the club's owner and chairman. Berkovic had been an active manager in the transfer market during his two months signing fifteen players including Mazuwa Nsumbu, Liran Strauber and Itay Shechter.
He is married and has three children.
Yossi Benayoun stated that Eyal Berkovic was a contributing factor in his move to FA Premier League side West Ham United, Berkovic's former club. He joined the newly promoted West Ham in 2005 and shocked Bolton Wanderers manager Sam Allardyce who had told Benayoun "You are joining the number one contenders for relegation. West Ham will not play real football and you won't get any playing minutes. You will not advance. They will get relegated".
- Israeli Premier League champion: 1990–91, 1993–94
- Runner-up: 1994–95, 1995–96
- Israel State Cup winner: 1991, 1993, 1995
- Toto Cup winner: 1993–94
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