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Yossi Benayoun declares interest in MLS move

With his contract at Chelsea running out this summer Yossi Benayoun has been discussing where he might be playing in the coming months. In a recent interview he declared a strong interest in moving to America and playing in MLS.

Europa League champion, Yossi Benayoun!
Europa League champion, Yossi Benayoun!
Dmitry Korotayev

Yesterday our friends at We Ain't Got No History ran a piece about Yossi Benayoun and his interest in moving to MLS this summer. The piece was built around the midfielder's interview with Sky Sports where he was quite clear in expressing his desire to play in MLS.

"I finish my contract on 30th June. At the moment I'm in talks with several European teams.

"I'm checking my options but, to tell you the truth, America is one of my favourite options.

"I'm trying to do everything I can to come to America and play in the MLS, and hopefully it works out in the next few weeks."

That Sky Sports article is actually based upon a story published in the New York Post on Friday. It adds further details to the story including a possible club that might be interested in securing the players services.

"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 (Benayoun's agent) told the Post of Benayoun, who starred at West Ham and Liverpool before joining Chelsea in July, 2010. "We also have options in Europe, of Spain, Germany, of course England a few clubs, top leagues.

So the Red Bulls might be the leading candidate to sign the player but at this point they reportedly have not made contact with the player or his agent since that attempted signing of last summer. If they are not interested in him this time around it might open the door for another club to land the 33 year-old midfielder.

Benayoun certainly has a strong resume having collected 92 caps for Israel and making a name for himself in the Premier League since 2005 when he joined West Ham United. His professional career began in Israel with Hapoel Be'er Sheva but moved to the larger Maccabi Haifa after just one season. His success there led to him moving to Spain and joining Racing de Santander where he would make over 100 appearances.

He left Spain in 2005 and made his move to England where he would enjoy two successful seasons with West Ham before making the move to a "big club" as he joined Liverpool in 2007. That move led to another three seasons of success and was the high point of the players career but things have gone off the rails since his 2010 transfer to Chelsea. He has only managed 14 appearances for the club in the three seasons since moving to London and has been sent out on loan twice. His first loan was to Arsenal in 2011-2012 where he managed to make 19 appearances and seemed to be back on track but this past season his return to West Ham on loan was much less successful.

His recent play might suggest that at 33 his best days are already behind him but in the 13 appearances that he made this past year between Chelsea and West Ham he did show that there is still gas left in the tank and given the chance to play regularly he could prove to be a key contributor once more.

His resume means that he would likely only be interested in coming to MLS if it means landing a designated player level contract. If there is interest in from other leagues it would also drive up the price so it is unlikely that anyone would be in line to get a deal on the player. Assuming that he would be a DP it would rule out a lot of potential landing places for him around the league.

When asked about the idea of Benayoun coming to play for Toronto FC this was my reply for the We Ain't Got No History article:

Toronto FC recently missed out on signing fellow Isreali National Team player Tal Ben Haim because his wage demands were too rich for the club. It is likely that a player like Benayoun would also be looking for a large wage but the club is reportedly on the hunt for a summer addition in the DP range. It is unlikely that Benayoun would be that big name signing but his profile is similar to a lot of Toronto FC's recent additions. He has made a name for himself playing in England, will be familiar to Ryan Nelsen from his time in the Premiership, and his ability to play around the midfield would make him a good fit for Toronto as they are in need of quality in that area.

If he were willing to come in below the DP level then he would be a nice addition for TFC. At the DP level though it just does not make much sense for a team that is trying to cut down their wage bill and is in need of improvement all over the field. With Tim Lieweke, formerly connected to the L.A. Galaxy moving over to TFC's parent company MLSE the team is supposed to be looking for a Beckham level signing which would fill their final DP slot. With Danny Koevermans and Matias Laba on the books already I would say Benayoun is not an option but this management team has already sprung a few surprises so who knows.

That is a reply that I stand by but will add that both Kevin Payne and Ryan Nelsen have been suggesting the team could be interested in bringing in an attacking midfielder. So even though the player would not quite be the big impact signing that has been touted in recent weeks he would fit the position that the club has targeted for that summer signing. Toronto is one of a select group of MLS clubs that have a DP slot open and the spending power to land a player like Benayoun but if they are serious about going after a signature signing to launch Lieweke's era in charge of the club it is not likely going to be Benayoun.

So the name is out there but has not been linked to Toronto FC at this point other than the obvious jokes about how Toronto is collecting all of the Premier League cast-offs that they can get their hands on this year. Would Benayoun be the sort of player you would want to see Toronto go after as a summer DP signing or are you holding out for someone bigger or younger?