Israeli soccer star Manor Solomon joins Tottenham, Premier League club with Jewish history

World News

(JR) — Israeli soccer star Manor Solomon is finalizing a five-year contract with the Tottenham Hotspur Football Club, the London-based Premier League team with a rich and at times controversial Jewish history.

In his first season in the prestigious Premier League this year, the 23-year-old winger broke onto the international scene as a member of Fulham FC, scoring in five straight games from Feb. 11 through March 6. He was the first Israeli player to ever accomplish that feat.

Solomon’s play drew interest from powerhouse clubs across Europe, including Spain’s FC Barcelona, England’s Arsenal and Germany’s RB Leipzig.

But in the end, pending the results of a physical, Solomon is joining one of the top Premier League teams, known for its sizable Jewish fanbase. Tottenham fans have for decades called themselves “Yids” and the “Yid army” in an affectionate way, but last year, the club asked fans to stop using the term, which is considered by many to be an antisemitic slur.

The Athletic reported that London’s Jewish community was a plus for Solomon and that Tottenham has a following in Israel.

Solomon, who hails from Kfar Saba in central Israel, played professionally for the Maccabi Petah Tikva team in Israel before joining the Ukrainian soccer club Shakhtar Donetsk in 2019. When Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, Solomon recounted waking up “to the sound of explosions and sirens.”

Solomon left Ukraine, making the 17-hour journey to the Polish border. After a 10-hour wait in the freezing cold, Solomon returned to Israel. “I feel lucky I got out,” he said at the time.

Thanks to a FIFA rule permitting non-Ukrainian players on Ukrainian clubs to suspend their contracts after the start of the war, Solomon joined Fulham last summer. His Sephardic heritage allowed him to obtain a Portuguese passport, which helped facilitate his travel throughout the European Union.

Following his success as a rare Jewish star in the Premier League, Solomon became an icon in Israel, where fans refer to him as “King Solomon,” The Athletic reported in March.

“Everyone has their eyes on the TV to see what Manor is going to do,” sports writer Josh Halickman, who runs the Sports Rabbi website, told The Athletic. “That’s across the country. Any time that Manor is on TV now, you can guarantee the viewers are through the roof.”

Shakhtar Donetsk is trying to negotiate with Tottenham over a fee for losing Solomon to the Premier League, something the Ukrainian team would have received before FIFA, the global soccer body, instituted wartime rules.

“We are sure Tottenham executives understand that Shakhtar invested significant money in the Solomon transfer, investment that Ukrainian clubs in our difficult position simply cannot afford to lose,” Shakhtar Donetsk CEO Sergei Palkin told The Athletic.

Solomon is also a member of Israel’s national soccer team, which just qualified for the Olympics for the first time since 1976. Israel will be one of 16 teams competing in Paris in 2024.

Soccer at the Olympics is an under-23 sport, but each country is allowed three roster spots for players over 23. Solomon is 23 now and will be 24 by the Paris Games.