Yosef Shai "Yossi" Benayoun
(; born May 5, 1980) is an Israeli
who plays professionally for Chelsea
in the English Premier League
Benayoun plays as an attacking midfielder
, often occupying the space just behind the striker. In Israel, he is sometimes nicknamed "The Diamond from Dimona". He is also the captain of the Israeli national team
. Benayoun is of Moroccan Sephardic
origin, which allowed him to acquire Spanish citizenship during his time there.
Jason Burt writing for The Independent
described Benayoun's youth years: "aged nine and he was spotted as a footballing talent. Aged 11 and the talent was labelled a genius. By 13, his face appeared on the front of magazines in Israel. Benayoun started his career aged nine with Hapoel Be'er Sheva
. To attend training, he regularly hitchhiked the 60 km roundtrip with his father. After making a name for himself, he was scouted by Ajax
. They invited the 15-year-old Benayoun and his family to the Netherlands. By his 16th birthday, he was the Ajax youth team's highest scorer and best player, and Ajax duly offered Benayoun a four-year professional
contract. However, Benayoun and his family had not settled very well in Amsterdam
, and so he turned his back on the contract and returned to Israel after just eight months.