Is Israel's Omer Damari one of Celtic’s big transfer regrets?

Celtic

Once linked with a move to Celtic Park and the chance to link up with friend Beram Kayal, Omer Damari has been a standout star for Israel of late.

When Chris Coleman first took a look at the Euro 2016 qualification group draw handed to Wales, the likes of Belgium and Bosnia-Herzegovina would have had the 44-year-old more than a little concerned for the Dragons’ chances.

But as we’ve progressed, another side has emerged as challengers to top the group or at the least potentially take Wales’ place in France: Israel.

Fresh from a 3-0 win over Bosnia, the Blue and Whites sit one point clear of Wales at the summit with a game in hand and on the evidence of their weekend showing could take some beating.

Israel have a crop of up and coming stars looking to follow in the footsteps of Yossi Benayoun and current captain Tal Ben Haim, but one man may be more than a little familiar to Celtic fans: Omer Damari.

Currently on the books of Austria Vienna, where he has already racked up nine goals in 13 appearances this season, the 25-year-old striker was on target for Israel against Bosnia, scoring what is his ninth goal in 17 international appearances.

In fact, few have contributed more to the national side’s impressive start to the qualification campaign, with Damari scoring five goals across all three of the games they have played so far.

All of which makes Celtic’s decision not to sign the free-scoring Israeli back in 2011 rather unfortunate.

It was Celtic midfielder Beram Kayal who first broke the news of the Bhoys’ reported interest in the then-Maccabi Petah Tikva striker, who had just come off the back of his most prolific season to date, scoring 17 goals in 35 games played across 2010-11.

"Omer and I talked in January and also less than two months ago. He asked me about the offer and I gave him a strong recommendation," he told the Daily Record.

Kayal is a close friend of Damari, so the move made sense with his eye for goal and the presence of an international teammate meaning he would most likely settle well.

A £2 million deal seemed to be in the bag, with Maccabi Petah Tikva president Amos Luzon telling the Express he was confident that the forward would go on to be a success for the Hoops and ultimately elsewhere in Europe.

"I am sure they will sell him for a minimum of £10 million. Minimum," he told the news provider.

But while the Israeli club appeared sure that a move was imminent, it was an altogether different story for Celtic.

Instead the Bhoys moved to dismiss Luzon’s claims, noting that a deal for Damari had been discussed but no bid had been tabled and no fee had been agreed and that the club had instead been concentrating on completing a deal for then-Beerschot star Victor Wanyama.

In the end, the Maccabi Petka Tikva chairman’s comments saw Celtic pull the plug on any potential bid and Damari ultimately moved to Hapoel Tel-Aviv for €1.5 million days after the story broke.

But while the Hoops dream died for the young striker the goals continued to flow and a tally of 69 in 131 games for Hapoel over three seasons proved more than enough to convince Austria Vienna to take a chance.

Now flying high both domestically and on the international stage, a big move could be just around the corner for Damari – though don’t count on it being to Celtic.

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