An Israeli with a Polish passport living in Spain. It's not exactly a normal combination by any means, but speaking to Tomer Hemed it’s quite clear what a straight forward guy he is.
Real Mallorca's striker has hit the headlines for two reasons so far this season. Firstly, he made history as he managed to grab two goals in a 2-1 win over Espanyol that were on different days but in the same game. Secondly, for his consistency in front of goal. He has managed six goals in his first eight games of the season for Mallorca, already more than half his overall total for last season. Not to mention, he's hit another five goals in two games with Israel.
What's changed? Well, much of it is due to events off the field. “Last season was special, it was my first season in Spain and to be honest nothing was easy,” he told Football Espana this week.
“I’d changed country, and me and my family had the language problem. It was all very complicated. Now, I'm more confident, I'm getting better with my Spanish and all these factors contribute. In training, I'm working harder too.”
It could have all been so different though, as he could so well be playing on another island – the United Kingdom. Glasgow Rangers had him all but signed, before Mallorca's sporting director Llorenc Serra Ferrer tempted him to the glorious Palma. Serra Ferrer himself needed help though, in the form of another Israeli Dudu Aouate. The long-serving goalkeeper tipped him off about a promising young striker at Maccabi Haifa who managed 15 goals in 22 games.
“I soon realised how important Dudu is for this club, hearing people chant his name every game. He’s a great person, who has helped me tremendously. Whenever I needed a hand he’s been there, and outside of football he’s a great friend".
Hemed's transition from a shy, timid individual into a thorn in the side of La Liga defences with his hard running, physicality and fine finishing has been the result of finding balance within his life in a new country. A little help from his friends both Israeli and Spanish – he singles out Victor Casadesus too, citing a connection rather than competition with his fellow striker – has gone a long way.
It’s the sort of unity you see with Mallorca every game – they may not play the most eye-catching football but the collective strengths are to be admired.
With a little more quality, they can maybe even grab that European place that just slipped their grasp last season. Gio dos Santos could be that quality, adds Hemed: “Everyone knows he has it, he’s the sort of player everyone wants to have in their team.” There were a few glimpses of their connection in the defeat to Sevilla, which left Mallorca fans thirsty for more.
If it does develop, then Europe is a genuine possibility for the club and Hemed is certainly hoping so: “A dream? Yeah, that would be playing in Europe with Mallorca.”