10/14/10 - Itay Shechter
Team: Hapoel Tel Aviv (Israel)
Shirt Number: 9
Position: Forward (C)
Secondary: Forward (L,R), Attacking Midfielder (L,R)
Height: 1.79 m / 5.87 ft
Weight: 74 kg / 162 lbs
Report: Israel's Finest
Hapoel Tel Aviv striker Itay Shechter is the current star of Israeli football.
And after showing his immense potential playing in the local league, he is now beginning to shine in the Champions League and on the international stage.
Shechter made a huge leap forward last season and developed into a player way above the level of the domestic league.
He can still improve his abilities, but he is already a potential transfer target for many European sides.
Until last season, Shechter was just unfulfilled potential. He used to drive his coaches – including his coach at Maccabi Netanya Lothar Matthaus - crazy, dribbling far too much and making poor decisions.
But Shechter got his head down, worked hard at his game and last year tore the league to pieces for Double winners Hapoel.
Shechter is still far from fulfilling his great promise but under the right guidance and in a better training environment, he has the potential to rip even top teams to shreds.
Background and History
Shechter began his playing career in Hapoel Haifa's youth department and during his youth career moved to Hapoel Nazareth Illit. In 2005/6 Nazareth got promoted to the top flight and Shechter was moved to the senior team at the beginning of the season, as a hot prospect for the club's future. He had an impressive debut season scoring three goals in 27 appearances for the modest side, who were relegated from the league at the end of the season.
Due to his excellent displays, Shechter was eyed by several sides. Maccabi Netanya won the battle for his services and the young striker signed a three- year contract with the club, with Netanya paying Nazareth $400k for him.
There were major expectations from both fans and club managers regarding the youngster, and he did put in a strong debut season with his new team, scoring six goals in 30 appearances.
However, Shechter couldn't continue his constant improvement in the 2007/8 and 2008/9 seasons. His scoring record didn't improve and more importantly, he didn't rid his game of any flaws during that time.
The 2008/2009 season was a frustrating one for Shechter. He had a lot of trouble working under Matthaus. The German legend questioned Shechter's professionalism, criticizing him several times in the media. But as their relationship got better, it became clear that Matthaus was simply frustrated Shechter wasn't fulfilling his tremendous potential.
Shechter’s most important step in his career so far was the move to Hapoel Tel Aviv last summer. After a long saga during which Netanya demanded $700k for Shechter, Hapoel paid $500k and Shechter penned a deal to keep him at the club until 2014.
And after scoring on his debut against Swedish side Goteborg, he hasn't looked back.
Shechter is characterized first and foremost by his lightening acceleration and pace, which enables him to cause even top defenders major problems. Shechter is not only fast when running without the ball, he is also very quick with the ball thanks to his close control.
Shechter's biggest asset is his ability to beat players in one-on-one situations, making use of his speed and excellent dribbling technique.
He has also become a stronger player who doesn't get knocked off the ball easily.
Shechter is technically skilled. He can unleash excellent shots and play good passes with his stronger right foot, while also possessing the ability to use his left foot quite well.
He is a very unpredictable player, giving defenders a hard time reading his moves.
Despite being a striker with the natural sense of a target man, he is also useful in a supporting role. He is good at holding the ball up and has the physical power to play even as a lone striker. When playing as a support striker he also makes use of his excellent speed, creating space for his partner.
He can also play as a winger on both flanks and has done so for the national team
Shechter is a quick thinker and reacts well to situations and his teammates' movement.
Another strength of Shechter is surprisingly his heading ability. He is not a tall player but he is very athletic and has a very good natural leap as well as good positional sense in the box when the ball is crossed in.
Most of Shechter's weaknesses have to do with mentality. He is simply a football player who is still maturing, but the big question mark is over whether he will continue the growing-up process.
His lack of mental strength means Shechter's decision-making still needs to improve.
He still sometimes tends to shoot instead of pass, and overdo his dribbling.
Although he hasn't really improved his defensive ability, when Shechter is given tactical freedom, he "returns the favour" to his coach with defensive work
Shechter still has a little room for improvement on the speed in which he makes his decisions, although that aspect of his game has improved.
He also needs to improve his focus. He gets caught offside too much for a player of such speed, and does miss chances in the box.
Also, despite being a very technical player, he is not a player who can build the attacks, and needs to have creative players around him.
He doesn't have great leadership qualities and finds it difficult to lift his team when they are underperforming.
He also doesn't believe enough in his heading abilities, despite having positioning and heading skills of a high calibre.
An extremely crucial weakness Shechter must cut out of his game if he wants to succeed at a higher level is his tendency to go to ground too easily. Shechter has benefitted from the sometimes "whistle-happy" referees in the Israeli league, and will not have this luxury abroad. This flaw was evident in the recent Euro 2012 qualifier against Greece.
Shechter is currently in excellent form, for both Hapoel Tel Aviv and Israel, despite his club having had a poor start to the season, lying in seventh place.
Playing alongside former Chelsea striker Ben Sahar, Shechter has continued to score and make assists at an amazing rate. He has found the net four times and set up three goals in 10 games this season, including two assists and a goal in Champions League qualifying.
He also scored a fantastic solo effort in Israel's Euro qualifying defeat to Croatia and forced the own-goal to put his country level in the following game against Greece – a match they eventually also lost.
After his impressive performances, Shechter is being scouted by a host of clubs from Europe.
It appears that Hapoel have realized already that it will be very difficult for them to keep hold of Shechter as the player himself is being tempted by the idea of a move.
Celtic bid €3 million for Shechter in the summer, but Hapoel turned down the offer, saying they wanted at least €5m.
However, more offers are likely to come their way in January, and Hapoel might not find them so easy to turn down.