Eran Zahavi, a star player on the Maccabi Tel Aviv soccer team, announced on June 29 that he will join the Chinese football club Guangzhou R&F.
Guangzhou will pay Zahavi an estimated $12.5 million over the next 30 months in addition to a $20,000 bonus for each goal he scores.
Maccabi is to receive $8 million for Zahavi, reportedly the most lucrative transfer ever involving an Israeli sports club.
“Today I start a new chapter in my career,” Zahavi, 28, wrote on Instagram next to a photo of himself in his Israeli uniform. “I decided to post a photo of myself in a Maccabi Tel Aviv shirt because the first thing I want to do is to thank the club for the most amazing and beautiful three and a half years of my career.”
Zahavi is the second Israeli player to compete in China. Liron Zarko, formerly of HaPoel Beersheva, joined Chongqing Lifan in 2009 and returned to Israel the following year to play for the Bnei Sakhnin club.
Zahavi was named the Israeli Footballer of the Year in 2013 and 2014, having scored a record 29 goals in the Israeli Premier League. During the 2015–16 season, he achieved an all-time league record of 35 goals.
Maccabi Tel Aviv Sports Director Johan (Jordi) Cruyff said in a statement: “We are all saddened by Eran’s departure and will miss him greatly. I wish him all the best and hope that one day he will come home to Maccabi again.”
Zahavi’s Instagram post included a promise to return one day to Maccabi Tel Aviv. “No matter what happens, it will always stay in my heart,” said the attacking midfielder, who has also played for the Israel National Team.