By Stefano Conforti –
Only a couple of days are left before the transfer window closes in Europe. Lokomotiv have been one of the most static teams in Russia, which hasn’t stopped foreign clubs from showing an interest in some of the best Lokomotiv players. Rumors have suggested that both Vitaliy Denisov and Baye Oumar Niasse could move away from the Russian Football Premier League—this list can now be expanded to include Petar Škuletić.
On January 26, a Sivasspor Facebook page claimed that the Serbian striker has agreed on terms to join the Turkish club Sivasspor Kulübü. But as is often the case with the Turkish media, someone seems to have jumped the gun. Meanwhile, the Turkish journalist Mustafa Ates admitted that this move would be extremely difficult and concludes that Škuletić is likely to stay at Lokomotiv. Both Turkish and Russian fans were astonished by the above transfer story which lasted just a few hours and demonstrates the volatile dynamics of the modern transfer market.
Škuletić – Has Important Skill Sets for Lokomotiv’s Offence
Nevertheless, many Lokomotiv fans have started asking whether Škuletić staying would actually be a good thing. On the one hand, Petar has had a season in which he performed below expectations—Lokomotiv Tajik head coach Igor Cherevchenko prefers starting Niasse. When he has played, he has scored just three goals this season compared to Niasse, who is the top scorer with 13. Sometimes, the Tajik Coach even preferred the Brazilian striker Maicon Marques (5 goals) over the former Partizan Belgrade striker.
On the other hand, Škuletić is the only player in Lokomotiv with certain skills. He’s physically strong and tough to face in the aerial duels; it is not a coincidence that he scored all his goals with headers (against Mordovia Saransk, Anzhi Makhachkala, and Torpedo Armavir). Cherevchenko could take advantage of these skills which would allow him to alter his tactics depending on the nature of his opponent. That is why, despite the criticism, Škule as he is called by his teammates, is still a key player.
On February 13, Lokomotiv will be playing Fenerbahçe in the Europa League. This match is going to be really important for Petar, who is likely to be in the starting line-up as Niasse is suspended for one more match. In the first winter camp in United Arab Emirates , Škuletić looked very good. Furthermore, he scored a brace in the match against Uzbek side Bunyodkor Tashkent, and demonstrated his skills with an awesome goal from long range.
It is hoped that, after having joined the club exactly one year ago, Škule can finally lmeasure up to the expectations many have for him. At the same time, every red and green fan should be grateful for the Serbian striker’s contributions to the squad. This is especially true of the decisive goal that he scored on April 29, 2015 against Gazovik Orenburg in the Russian Cup semifinal, which enabled Lokomotiv to defeat the Football National League side after the penalty shootouts and qualified Lokomotiv for the 2015 Russian Cup final in Astrakhan.
Since then, however, Škuletić has played fewer and fewer minutes, mostly because Niasse has developed as a formidable striker. Nevertheless, the Serbian striker seems to be satisfied with his first year in Russia: “The year was good. I’ve won the Russian Cup and I’ve been called up to the Serbian national team. Despite playing not very much, I have scored six, seven goals. It means 2016 will be better,” said Škuletić in a recent interview to RSport. Regarding the upcoming match against Fenerbahçe, he admitted: “It’ll be tough. There will be a full stadium with a crazy atmosphere. However, we have a good chance to qualify [for the next round]. I know they can rely on some class players like van Persie, Nani, Bruno Alves and Diego, but we have to take our chances.”
Škuletić Remains in High Demand Despite A Poor Season
Before he signed for Lokomotiv, many European clubs, such as French side OSC Lille and the German Bundesliga teams Borussia Dortmund and FC Schalke 04, were interested in Škuletić. Škuletić believed, however, that the RFPL is the best league for Balkan players to develop, which is why he chose the move to Lokomotiv.
A year later, Škuletić has summed up his life in Russia: “I really like everything. I want to stay with Lokomotiv and to show why I came here. I enjoy Moscow, my family lives there. I can’t find any discomfort.” Nevertheless, Sivasspor will not be the last club to show an interest in the Serbian forward.
Despite his poor season in Russia, Škuletić remains on the radar of several clubs in Europe. The possibility of Niasse leaving, however, means that staying at Lokomotiv might be the best coarse of action for the striker. The year 2016, therefore, could really be a new beginning for him. With the likely departure of Niasse this summer, Škuletić will likely finally be given the opportunity to prove himself at the highest level. The next months will be crucial for him, in his ambition to become one of the best strikers of the Russian Premier League.
Stefano is a half Russian, half Italian Football writer. Stefano supports Lokomotiv Moscow. Stefano is the founder of the FCLMblog, the only blog about Lokomotiv outside Russia, and FCLMmagazine, which is the first magazine in English for an Eastern Europe football club. I currently contribute to Russian Football News and MondoFutbol. I’m interested in everything related to Russia and the post-Soviet world. Follow Stefano on Twitter @confortistefano