Cristiano Ronaldo hit 38 league goals in 2014 but a midfielder in Israel is only three behind after scoring in 17 successive top-flight games. Meet Eran Zahavi.
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Maccabi Tel-Aviv FC's Eran Zahavi was prematurely talking of a calamity on Sunday evening after his remarkable run of scoring came to an end.
The 27-year-old had registered in 17 successive league appearances before the eight-month sequence came to an end in a 2-0 victory against Hapoel Ra'anana FC. "It's a crisis!" Zahavi joked. "I'm clearly not in any kind of shape."
Zahavi received a standing ovation from fans and colleagues after the end of a match that lifted the champions of the past two years to first place in the Israeli Premier League. "You saw that Maccabi can win without my goals," he added. "My team-mates are always there to support me and none of this could have been achieved without them."
Let us put 'this' into context. As remarkable a season as Cristiano Ronaldo is having, the Portuguese managed to score in only 11 league games in a row before Málaga CF last month had the temerity to shut him out. Indeed, Zahavi was only four games shy of Lionel Messi's Liga record of 21 set for FC Barcelona in 2012/13. And Zahavi has done it all from midfield.
It was not always so. Zahavi contributed his share of goals – but no more – for Hapoel Tel-Aviv FC before a less prolific season and a half at US Città di Palermo. He returned to Israel in January 2013, scoring in his first appearance for Maccabi. It proved a sign of things to come: two years later and he has 51 goals in 74 matches for the yellow side of Tel Aviv.
He scored 35 league goals in 2014 – just three shy of Ronaldo – and after the blip against Hapoel Ra'anana the man ever-present in Israel's excellent start to UEFA EURO 2016 qualifying is eager to get back on the horse. "After 17 games this is just a small break; soon the count will start again from scratch." Pretenders to Maccabi's throne has been warned.