Benedict Saul "Benni" McCarthy is a South African footballer who is currently playing his club football for the English Barclays Premier League side West Ham United and internationally for the South African national football team as a striker. He joined the Hammers on 1 February 2010 on a two and a half-year deal until the summer of 2012. He is also currently assigned to the shirt number 17 jersey which was vacated by Luis Jimenez.
Early and personal life
Benni McCarthy was born in Cape Town and grew up in Hanover Flats on the Cape Flats, an area notorious for its high unemployment rate and gang violence. He is the son of Dudley (†2008) and Dora McCarthy and has two brothers and a sister. His older brother is Jerome McCarthy, a former professional footballer who played for Kaizer Chiefs and Manning Rangers among others while his younger brother Mark played football at Franklin Pierce University in the United States.
Benni McCarthy started playing at a local side called Young Pirates which was managed by his uncles. He then joined the youth structures of a local amateur club called Crusaders. At age 17, he was signed by 1st division club Seven Stars.
McCarthy has dated model Amy Leigh Barnes who was found murdered in her home on 8 November 2008.
Seven Stars and Ajax
Playing for Seven Stars, the 18-year old McCarthy scored 1 goal in 29 games in the 1995–96 season, followed by another 12 goals in 20 matches, which earned him a transfer to Cape Town Spurs which two years later merged with Seven Stars to form Ajax Amsterdam feeder team Ajax Cape Town.
In 1997, after an impressive showing at the African Youth Championship and FIFA World Youth Championship in Malaysia, he joined the Dutch side, where he scored 9 goals and was crowned champion in his first season. After a relatively successful 1998–99 season he was sold to Spanish side Celta Vigo for a sum reported to be over €6m, at the time the most expensive transfer for a South African player.
Although regarded as one of the best African players at the time, McCarthy never established himself as a regular choice for Celta Vigo's manager, Víctor Fernández. After two poor seasons at the Galician club, he was loaned to struggling FC Porto in the 2001–02 season where he soon rediscovered the form that took him to Europe.
At Porto he played under the then newly-appointed coach José Mourinho for an underperforming team that had never been quite good enough to challenge for the top honours in Europe. However, that would soon change.
After representing Bafana Bafana in the 2002 African Nations Cup, his national side were knocked out in the semi-finals, McCarthy returned to Porto where he became the main force behind the team's recovery. He helped them to third place in the league and automatic qualification for the UEFA Cup by scoring an impressive 12 goals in only 11 matches, but Porto's finances did not allow them to keep the player, despite the desire of both sides to continue.
So, in 2002–03 Mccarthy returned to Celta Vigo where he spent a lot of time on the bench as squad player while Porto captured the League Cup in Portugal and the UEFA Cup. When former teammate Hélder Postiga was sold to English side Tottenham Hotspur in the 2003-04 season, Porto finally acquired the funds to buy McCarthy for a sum of €3.5 M.
On his return, McCarthy not only found club morale was at its highest for years, but that Porto now had a highly organized team with some of the best Portuguese players. He grabbed the Golden Boot award (with 20 goals in 23 games) on the final day with a terrific hat-trick, and was instrumental in Porto's superb run in the 2004 UEFA Champions League, which they won. Notably, he was responsible for scoring two goals against Manchester United to defeat them in the second round.
When José Mourinho left and was (shortly) replaced by Italian coach Luigi Del Neri, McCarthy considered leaving for the FA Premier League, but the two years left in his contract posed a problem. When the Italian coach was fired and replaced by his former Celta coach Fernandez (who he said he would rather quit playing than be coached by again) he tried to pressure Porto to sell him to Everton, who needed a replacement for Wayne Rooney.
Porto refused to sell and despite Fernandez praising McCarthy and describing him as a world class striker, rumours continued to rage about which Premiership club McCarthy would move to, with West Ham United and Blackburn Rovers being mooted as possible destinations. Blackburn Rovers were in talks with Porto but could not agree a fee. However, he stayed with the club and was rewarded with winning another Portuguese national championship with FC Porto in the 2005-06 season.
On 25 July 2006, McCarthy flew out to England to undergo a medical and probable contract signing to join Blackburn Rovers and, three days later, signed a four year contract with Blackburn Rovers for a £2.5m fee.
After a disappointing performance in the side's 3–0 defeat to Portsmouth, McCarthy found the net on his debut at Ewood Park against Everton on the 23 August 2006. McCarthy further endeared himself to Rovers fans, scoring a goal on his European debut for the club in a 2–2 against Salzburg in the UEFA Cup, and scoring another in the return leg. He finished second top scorer in the Premiership in 2006–07 with 18 league goals (24 goals in total).
The following season got off to a bad start for McCarthy when he was stretchered off in the opening day win against Middlesbrough. Benni was out of action for a few weeks and found first team opportunities limited, largely because the form of new striking arrival Roque Santa Cruz. Despite being limited to largely substitute appearances, McCarthy did find the net a total of eleven times in all competitions.
In the 2008-09 season McCarthy appeared to be out of favour with new manager Paul Ince, as the club's strike force was strengthened with the arrivals of Carlos Villanueva and Robbie Fowler to join the already established Roque Santa Cruz, Jason Roberts and Matt Derbyshire. However, he answered these critics by scoring his first goal of the campaign - a 94th minute equalizer in a Premier League match against Middlesbrough.
In all competitions, for Blackburn Rovers, McCarthy scored a total of 52 goals in 140 matches.
West Ham United
McCarthy completed a move to West Ham United for an undisclosed fee on transfer deadline day, 1 February 2010. He signed a two and a half-year contract that runs until the summer of 2012. He made his Premier League debut for West Ham United against Lancashire team Burnley at Turf Moor in a 2-1 defeat on Saturday 6 February 2010 where he sustained an injury that would keep him out for up to a month.
McCarthy made his full international debut in a friendly against the Netherlands on June 4, 1997.
Along with veteran Egyptian Striker Hossam Hassan , McCarthy was the joint top scorer in the 1998 African Cup of Nations in Burkina Faso with seven goals, including four in 13 minutes against Namibia.
The 1998 FIFA World Cup in France was the first time South Africa's national football team had reached the later stages of the competition and McCarthy (then at Ajax) was one of their key players. After a 3–0 defeat against future World Champions France, South Africa played their second game against Denmark. Trailing since the 13th minute, McCarthy tied the game at 1–1 in the 52nd minute and giving South Africa a chance for qualification. However, the third game also ended a draw (against Saudi Arabia), which left the South Africans in third place and eliminated from the competition.
The Korea/Japan World Cup saw history repeating for the South Africans. After a 2–2 draw against Paraguay and a 1–0 victory over the Slovenians, McCarthy's 30th minute equalizer in the last game against Spain was just not enough. South Africa eventually lost 3–2 and finished with another third place in the group stage.
There was often conflict over McCarthy's lack of participation in national team matches (whose interests often collide with his club's) and he actually retired from international games after the 2002 World Cup. However, he returned to the national team in 2004 and now holds the record of international goals for a South African. McCarthy scored in the second half of a 3–0 win against Paraguay in an international friendly. This strike eclipsed the previous record of 29 goals held by Shaun Bartlett.