Birthdate: 5 May 1980
Birthplace: Dimona, Israel
Other clubs: Hapoel Be'er Sheva (1995-98), Maccabi Haifa (1998-2002), Racing Santander (2002-05), West Ham United (2005-07), Chelsea (2010-), Arsenal (loan 2011-12), West Ham United (loan 2012)
Bought from: West Ham United
Signed for LFC: £5m, 13.07.2007
International debut: 18.11.1998 vs. Portugal
International caps: 92/24 (14/4 at LFC) - 26.03.2013
Liverpool debut: 15.08.2007
Last appearance: 02.05.2010
Debut goal: 25.09.2007
Last goal: 29.04.2010
Contract expiry: 02.07.2010
Win ratio: 53.73% W: 72 D: 33 L: 29
Games/goals ratio: 4.62
Total games/goals opposite LFC: 7 / 0
LFC league games/goals: 92 / 18
Total LFC games/goals: 134 / 29
Benayoun was Israel's most promising player when he joined the famed Ajax academy at age 15. He had taken his whole family with him, but some of them pined for their desert home in Israel. Benayoun had impressed everyone at Ajax and was offered a four-year contract, which he declined for his family's sake and returned to Israel after only one year. He was criticized for returning home so early and local press claimed he would never realise his potential. Benayoun joined his hometown club, Hapoel Be'er Sheva, and while it was relegated, he starred for the team and scored 15 goals. Benayoun thought he had saved his team from relegation when he scored in the last minute of their last League match, but the other relegation candidates also scored and Benayoun's team went down. A photograph of Benayoun taken right after the game showed his tearful disappointment. The photo struck the heart of Israel and "The Kid" was beloved again.
Benayoun was transferred to Maccabi Haifa where he blossomed at club and international level. He was voted Player of the Year as Maccabi won their first title in seven years in the 2000/01 season, and a year later triumphed in the League again. In 2003, the midfielder was on his way to northern Spain and Racing Santander. Benayoun starred in a struggling Santander side and established a good reputation that Rafa was very aware of. After 101 league appearances and 21 goals Santander was forced to cash in because of financial dire straits. West Ham parted with £2.5 million for the Israeli playmaker in the summer of 2005. Alan Pardew was fascinated by Benayoun after he made his Hammers' debut and maybe did him no favours by comparing him to the world's best player at the time: "He makes you get out of your seat. He is easy on the eye, he lets the ball drift across him like Zidane." He scored five goals and made seven assists as the Hammers finished a respectable ninth in the 2005/06 season and reached the FA Cup final. Benayoun proved very tricky for Liverpool's defence and his performance certainly played its part in Rafa signing him a year later.
Benayoun's first season at Anfield can certainly be described as successful as he featured in 47 of Liverpool's 59 competitive matches but was introduced as a substitute 21 times which must have been frustrating. Benítez felt he was a match winner but more often than to Benayoun's liking he didn't have a place for him in the starting line-up, which he tried to explain: "I have a lot of confidence in Kuyt, Voronin, Torres and also
Crouch. You can't go away with all four strikers. You must leave
To go away with three strikers when we have Benayoun who can play as a second striker, is hard." Still, eleven goals was a more than satisfactory figure for a man playing as a second striker and included hat-tricks against Besiktas in the Champions League and Havant & Waterlooville in the FA Cup. He had a knack of being 'in the right place at the right time' because no fewer than three of those six goals came when he reacted quickly to shots by his colleagues that had been saved or blocked.
Benayoun made further progress in his second season as Liverpool made a championship challenge. His skill on the ball was a joy to behold and his vision second to none but he was still considered mainly an impact player but he wasn't complaining: "I have come to appreciate that, at a big club like Liverpool, you can't take anything for granted," said Benayoun in March 2009. "With the number of top players we've got, you accept you are not always going to be playing and that you have to give it everything, when your chance comes along. If I found myself going three or four months without setting foot on the pitch, it might be different." He scored nine times from 42 first-team appearances in the 2008/09 season and signed a two-year extension to his contract binding him to the club until 2013. Benayoun had another steady season in 2009/10 starting 29 competitive matches but significantly being replaced in 22 of them. His hat-trick in the early-season Anfield encounter with Burnley was a unique treble in another way too, making him the only English-based player to have scored hat-tricks in the Premier League, the Champions League and the FA Cup.
Ironically Benayoun's best-ever form in a Liverpool shirt, when he played more regularly in the second half of the 2009/10 season, was rewarded with a transfer to Chelsea in the summer of 2010! His move came as a surprise to say the least and Benayoun explained why he left: "There is only one reason - Rafa Benítez. I want Liverpool fans to know the truth and for them to know I made up my mind to leave a long time ago because of Benítez. He never treated me with the respect I deserved. If I played well, I never felt he gave me credit. When I scored, I still expected to be out of the team the next game. And when the fans wanted me to play, Benítez told me he couldn't understand why. On the day before the final game of last season at Hull, Benítez pulled me to one side after training and said: 'You will not be in the squad for this game. Thank you for your three years of service, now you can call your agent to do a deal with another club.'"
Benayoun's first season back at a London club since 2006/07 was definitely one to forget. A serious Achilles injury kept him out of action for over half the season and although he eventually made a good recovery he only played in seven Premier League matches for Chelsea. Benayoun was loaned to Arsenal in the 2011/12 season where he played 25 first-team matches, scoring six times. The 32-year-old Benayoun made another loan-move, this time back to one of his former clubs, West Ham United, in the summer. He only made four starts at the Hammers and returned to Chelsea at the end of December 2012.