Dzyanis Palyakow 22 Defender BATE Borisov Belarus
2013 has been...
Frustrating. There was a point, for a short while, twelve months ago, when a young Minsk born full back was catching the eye of many observers, ourselves included. Not a spring heeled wideman or an 'eye of a needle' trequartista of note, but a common or garden defender who performed his task with some merit. Salt of the earth and all that.
Despite not being blessed with outlandish pace, Herculean strength or a multitude of 'tekkas', Denis Palyakow stood out for a reason. He looked like a half decent defender. No bad thing.
Reasonably tidy with both feet, Palyakow was, and is, an honest toiler, but one very adept at being in the right place at the right time. A first team regular for Shakhtyor since 2010, he was an admirable performer for the Belarus under 21 side as they came within a minute of beating eventual champions Spain in the 2011 European Championship Semi Finals. Palyakow's performances were noted accordingly and the somewhat inevitable move to the current champions of Belarus, BATE, followed.
A league title in his first season and a host of assured performances saw Palyakow make the Vysshya Liga team of the season. Just like his colleagues, he was not at all out of his depth in the Champions League following BATE's commendable showing in Bayern Munich's group last year. Yes, he made mistakes, but young players do; the key here is that Palyakow appeared to be learning and there was notable chatter amongst a number of European scouts suggesting that the defender could be worth a punt.
However in April he suffered a knee injury during a league match against Slaviya Mozyr and it is this event that has defined his 2013. Out for several weeks, it was a slightly rusty looking Palyakow that returned to duty for BATE against Dinamo Minsk in June, replacing Pavel Nekhajchik late in the second half.
Despite his team's elevation to the top of the top of their league, again, Palyakow has suffered from further niggling injuries. His normal position in the BATE first team is currently occupied by the left footed Aleksandr Yurevich, while a claim for the right back spot at international level has been obstructed by some excellent performances from Dinamo Minsk defender Oleg Veretilo. Georgi Kondratiev's national side may have finished bottom of their World Cup Qualifying group but they were a match for both France and Spain over extended periods of both ties, underlining a much deeper level of national strength than many might expect. With several of 2011's under 21 starlets moving up to senior level, Belarus could well become a relatively potent threat over the next decade and Palyakow will need to kick on in the face of stiff competition.
We really expected to be narrating Denis Palyakow's 2013 with the subtext of a move elsewhere included, but BATE offers a good platform for the future if he can reclaim his position. It's worth noting that the Borisov club have lost only one of the thirteen league matches Palyakow has played this year, compared with five defeats from the fifteen games he has missed.
Palyakow has been playing as a centre back of late, emphasising his all-round defensive capability and backing the judgement we made last year. Whether a truly top class defender can rise to prominence in Eastern Europe is a moot point, but it's always worth remembering that Nemanja Vidic didn't arrive at Manchester United until he was 24. Denis Palyakow may never attain that standard, but he does have ability and the next twelve months will be crucial to finding out what he's made of.
"A versatile and talented defender that has wobbled somewhat in 2013. Will really need to work to get back on the radar of Europe's elite." - Jeff Livingstone, IBWM
"Dzyanis Palyakow was the youngest player used by Belarus during the World Cup qualifying campaign. He made a tackle every 38 minutes that he was on the pitch." - Opta
D A position that once looked a given at both club and international level is no longer that but MUST be reaffirmed soon if initial sparkle is to prove anything more than just promise