Celtic’s Israeli midfield general Beram Kayal has been linked with a move away from Parkhead almost since the day he arrived, and the speculation hasn’t abated this summer. Southampton is the latest name to be linked with him, though his admirers over the last couple of years have also reportedly included Sir Alex Ferguson. John Clarke tells us why.
Born on May 2nd 1988 in Jadeidi, Israel, Kayal has grabbed the imagination of the sporting press not just for being a good player, but also for being of Palestinian ethnicity and playing for the Israeli national team without many eyelids being batted. He has three full terms as a first-teamer at Maccabi Haifa and two at Celtic under his belt and would have been a strong candidate for Player of the Year in both seasons in Scotland had he not missed spells through injury.
Is he any good?
Kayal was man of the match in his first competitive game for Celtic and the fans have been drooling about him ever since. Many feel that his loss through injury was one of the main reasons why Celtic narrowly failed to win the title in Neil Lennon’s first full season as manager. His influence in the side is such that, in Scott Brown’s absence, he captained Celtic at the tender age of 22 and in his first season at the club (though it has to be said that at least seven players have skippered the side during Lennon’s tenure).
He’s also a pretty effective ball-winner and though he’s a cool customer, he’s not averse to putting in a tough tackle.
Vision and range of passing are his key attributes. He’s not likely to skin five players and tiptoe round the goalkeeper, but his close control is impressive enough and, combined with his upper body strength and composure, allows him to wriggle away from challenges in the middle of the park and buy himself time to pick his trademark killer pass. He’s also a pretty effective ball-winner and though he’s a cool customer, he’s not averse to putting in a tough tackle. Still in his early twenties, he already oozes class and plays with the brain of a much older man – he could easily develop into a world class midfield maestro.
He must have a weak point …
There’s not really much to file in the weakness column. Some have pointed to his lack of physical stature for a deep-lying midfielder but though he’s not the biggest, he’s nobody’s pushover. Cynics have also attempted to label him injury prone, having already had three spells on the sidelines in his time at Celtic. However, there’s little to connect a hernia operation, a fractured wrist, and ankle ligaments damaged under a challenge from Rangers’ Lee McCulloch, so it’d be harsh to put this run down to anything other than bad luck.
With all due respect, when he does go, it’s unlikely to be to Southampton. This is a man who knows he’s capable of playing for a top club – he may be happy to wait until the right one comes calling.
The only serious criticism Kayal has received in his Celtic career was for supposedly ducking out of the way of Arda Turan’s direct free kick to give Atletico Madrid a 1-0 Europa League win at Parkhead. The footage is hard to argue with, but one mistake doesn’t make a bad player.
Would he go?
If the newspapers were always to be believed, Kayal would have been plying his trade at Old Trafford or Anfield over a year ago, but he’s still in the green and white hoops, so there’s no reason for Celtic fans to assume he’s packing his bags now. It would take serious money to persuade Neil Lennon to part with the lynchpin of his midfield, but should that megabucks offer materialise, the decision may lie with Kayal himself.
It’s likely he’ll want to test himself in one of the big leagues one day, and the Premiership may be as good a place as any, but from what we can gather he’s pretty comfortable at Parkhead for the time being. With all due respect, when he does go, it’s unlikely to be to Southampton. This is a man who knows he’s capable of playing for a top club – he may be happy to wait until the right one comes calling.
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