The captain of Israel’s soccer national team Eran Zahavi signed a deal with the Chinese club Guangzhou R&F on Wednesday, ending a period of doubt that the beloved star would remain with Maccabi Tel Aviv.
Zahavi, 28, who has led his team to a total of four Israeli championship victories, including three consecutive ones with Maccabi, signed a two-and-a-half-year contract with the Chinese club for a total of $12.5 million.
The midfielder is the second Israeli player to compete in China, and will be joining a team hovering in the middle of the league table, according to the Haaretz daily. Liron Zarkon was the first player to head to China, joining Chongqing Lifan in 2009.
The soccer star’s new contract also includes a clause guaranteeing nearly $20,000 for each goal he scores. This is no insignificant detail, as the captain led the Israeli premier league in scoring for the past three years, and in the past season, he broke a 61-year-old record for goals in a season with 35.
In return for losing its star player, Maccabi Tel Aviv receives around $8 million in transfer fees. The Israeli team presented Zahavi with a last-minute deal of close to $3 million annually for four years, but an exit clause and a goal-scoring obligation led him to reject the offer.
In May, Zahavi was among the first international player to share a video message of support on YouTube for a Pope-initiated interreligious Soccer for Peace tournament on July 10 in Argentina.