Kayal promises to restore spirits at Celtic after setback in Braga

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The Independent Football

Beram Kayal has promised to lift the spirits of Celtic's fans and said playing in the Champions League meant nothing compared to starring for "one of the best clubs in the world".

Kayal's hopes of appearing in the Champions League for a second successive season suffered a huge blow on Wednesday when Celtic were beaten 3-0 by Sporting Braga in the first leg of their third qualifying round tie.

The Israel midfielder completed his move from Maccabi Haifa yesterday morning as Celtic supporters faced up to the fact that their European season looks like ending next Wednesday.

Kayal played in last season's group stages but the 22-year-old insisted signing for Celtic was all he needed to make him happy as he follows in the footsteps of his boyhood idol Eyal Berkovic. The central midfielder bounced into the media room at Celtic's Lennoxtown training centre urging the gathered crowd to smile.

And he soon brushed aside suggestions that his move to Glasgow on a four-year contract had been spoilt by the result in Portugal. "I came here so happy, so excited," Kayal said through an interpreter.

"I'm just thinking about the moment I get on the pitch and play for the Celtic fans. This is all I care about. When you speak about the Champions League, it's nothing. When you say Celtic, it's a big, big thing.

"Celtic is a big name, it's a big community. I'm happy to play for one of the best clubs in the world and I'm not thinking about other things. It's a big thing for me – a dream come true. All last week during the discussions I couldn't sleep. I just wanted to be where I am now. Now I just want one more thing – to see the fans happy."

Berkovic's time at Parkhead was largely unhappy, with Martin O'Neill quickly moving him on after his only full season ended without a trophy following the departure of manager John Barnes. But watching Berkovic play for Celtic on television made a lasting impression on Kayal – and he wants to prove a similar inspiration to the next generation.

"Everyone in Israel has huge respect for Celtic," he said. "Eyal Berkovic is one of the biggest names in Israeli football. When he played for Celtic, the games were live in Israel. He represented the people of the country too. I remember a lot of things about those games, especially the fans, the passion of the crowd. Everyone in Israel wanted to see the Celtic result every week."

Kayal added: "Every boy in the world has a dream, like I had a dream, and I have achieved mine. I started from nothing, I came from the street, I played street football and I made it. I know there are boys back home wanting to do the same. I will give them inspiration because I will work hard."

Kayal rejected more lucrative offers from clubs such as Galatasaray to sign for Celtic after their manager, Neil Lennon, sold him his vision for the club. "I talked with the coach and I was very impressed," said Kayal, who will now return to Israel to arrange a work permit.

"I had heard a lot about him, I knew him as a player, he played in my position. After the discussions I found out that he was the guy who targeted me. He saw me on a lot of occasions. I'm happy he chose me.

"He told me he wants everyone to understand there is a new boss on the pitch, because in this position you are the boss. I do a dirty job and I work hard for the rest of my team-mates. I had other offers but I knew this was the right decision. After discussions with the coach, it guaranteed this was the right decision."