EYAL BERKOVIC was Celtic’s record signing when he arrived in July 1999 in a £5.75million deal from West Ham.

Rookie boss John Barnes and Director of Football Kenny Dalglish, the so-called ‘dream team’ who had replaced Jozef Venglos the previous month, reckoned the 27-year-old Israeli midfielder would become a pivotal figure in their plans to turn around the fortunes of the Hoops.

There was no denying the talent of the gifted playmaker, but, alas, he didn’t display an appetite for hard work when his team-mates required everyone to be pitching in.

GOVAN GLEE – FOR THE TIME BEING…Ian Wright congratulates Eyal Berkovic after one of the midfielder’s double against Rangers at Ibrox in November 1999.

Berkovic scored two excellent goals against Rangers at Ibrox in the first derby of the season on November 7. The score was level at 2-2 at the interval, but, unfortunately, lapses in defence allowed the hosts to add two more in the second-half for a 4-2 victory.

Henrik Larsson had already been sidelined with a horrendous leg-break in the European tie against Lyon in France on October 21 which added to the pressure on Barnes.

He brought in his former England international team-mate Ian Wright, the one-time prolific hitman with Arsenal, to take the place of the Swede, but it proved to be an impossible task for the veteran forward.

Berkovic played in the disastrous and infamous 3-1 Scottish Cup exit against Inverness Caley Thistle at Parkhead on February 8 2000 which proved to be Barnes’ last game in charge.

Dalglish moved into the hot-seat and the diminutive Israeli couldn’t find a settled place in the team. However, he did play in a home 4-2 win over Kilmarnock on April 2 – and hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons.

FIRST-CLASS…Eyal Berkovic scores a superb goal in Celtic’s 4-2 win over Kilmarnock at Parkhead in April 2000.

NO CLASS…Eyal Berkovic gestures to the Celtic fans after his strike against Killie.

Berkovic scored a superb goal, but spoiled the acclaim with a rude gesture to the Hoops support. It was an ill-advised moment although the player insisted afterwards: “I believe my celebrations were misinterpreted, but I can assure our fans that my actions were a way of expressing my excitement.”

Try getting any of the 40,569 followers in attendance that evening to swallow that explanation!

In the summer of 2000, Martin O’Neill took charge and Berkovic was on his way to Blackburn Rovers on loan at the turn of the year. After eight goals and 38 appearances for the Hoops, Kevin Keegan paid £1.5million to take him to Manchester City in July 2001.

The temperamental star then had a very public fall-out with the manager and moved onto Portsmouth for £500,000 in January 2004.

The 82 times-capped Israeli returned to his homeland with Maccabi Tel Aviv in the summer of 2005. On May 7 the following year, Berkovic announced his retirement from playing.

* TOMORROW: Don’t miss the adventures of another former Celt in CQN’s EXCLUSIVE series.

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