Yossi Benayoun: A cult Liverpool hero who was much more than that

At time of an irresistible partnership formed between two of the best players to have graced the club during the Premier League era, Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres, one player in the rough of things was the diamond of Dimona, Yossi Benayoun.

Having managed an impressive 47 appearances across his debut season in 2007/08, he found himself next best behind the pair in the club’s goalscoring charts, tied with Dirk Kuyt and Peter Crouch on 11 goals.

Known for his elegant style, complemented by his low centre of gravity and neat eye for a pass, he earned the respect of many at Anfield. Benayoun, who became just the third player from his country to represent the club — after Avi Cohen and Ronny Rosenthal — when he signed from West Ham United in 2007, is largely renowned as Israel’s greatest football export, something which will come as no surprise to many on Merseyside.

When he signed for the club, his arrival was overshadowed by the captures of both Torres and Ryan Babel in the same week, from Atlético Madrid and Ajax respectively. Make no mistake about it though, his impact was just as significant.

During his time as a Red, the Israeli became the first player to score a hat-trick in the FA Cup, Champions League and Premier League — an improbable yet remarkable achievement.

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Tireless energy and overall commitment are generally enough to endear yourself to a home crowd. However, add a blend of genius and suddenly there becomes the opportunity to leave your stamp on a club, something Benayoun certainly did at Liverpool.

By no means will the featherweight be regarded as the best to pull on the shirt, but some of his punches will hardly be forgotten in a hurry. Throughout his time on Merseyside, never did Benayoun shy away from a challenge. This was exemplified in the frantic 4-4 draw against Arsenal, when he scored twice and assisted once, and also when he dealt Real Madrid a knockout blow at the Bernabéu.

On several occasions Benayoun dazzled with his faultless dribbling ability and, despite appearing a player that would have no grip on a game physically, he could certainly hold his opponents and choke them with his natural ability to glide into dangerous areas undetected. The impact of a player so slight in reality could hardly have been greater given the opportunity.

Irrespective of the fact that other players during his Liverpool career grabbed the headlines, including the likes of Gerrard, Torres and Xabi Alonso, Benayoun was still a silky magician and a true joy to watch.

James Miller

Contributor. Bobby Firmino enthusiast. Miller, not Milner.

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