20 Midfielder FK Vardar Macedonia
Tall, rangy Skopje born midfielder/centre back once under close scrutiny from several Serie A teams. Something of an old-style sweeper, Velkovski emerged as a competent midfield anchor at FK Rabotnički in 2011. Given a first team call by Vlatko Kostov within weeks of his sixteenth birthday, Velkovski’s calmness and extensive range of passing quickly alerted some of Europe’s big names. A regular starter at the Philip II Arena, Velkovski was fast tracked through the international scene and gained his first cap in a friendly against Cameroon last year.
2015 has been…
A small step up. Current Macedonia national coach Igor Angelovski, in charge at Rabotnički for the previous two years, made the decision in 2014 to gradually move Velkovski backwards from a central midfield role to something a lot more defensive, and then ultimately, fix him permanently at centre back.
While Velkovski’s passing had always caught the eye, his strengths were in the initial stages of starting an offensive move for his team rather than offering a key assist or latching on to the end of anything. During the 2013/14 title winning season, Velkovski had noticeably, and perhaps inevitably, tired while Dusko Trajcevski and Milovan Petrovic provided the central base to launch a successful tilt at glory.
By the start of 2015, Velkovski was in excellent shape as Романтичари battled with cross city rivals FK Vardar for the championship. Drafted into the back four to replace the Rennes destined Gjoko Zajkov, Velkovski was in excellent form alongside veteran Milan Ilievski as his club ran their rivals close, finishing second.
And so the summer arrived and with Rabotnički fans fully expecting their young lynchpin to move on elsewhere in Europe like many of his compatriots. While offers were made, none were considered suitable, however the most ambitious attempt to recruit Velkovski came from across Skopje, with Vardar offering an acceptable amount of cash.
Velkovski started the season as a first choice centre back for his new team while Vardar have set the pace. Under the stewardship of national hero Goce Sedloski, the red and blacks sit at the top of the PRVA Liga, some seventeen points ahead of Rabotnički in fourth place. A chief component of Vardar’s success this season has been the continual dominance of their defence, which, at time of writing, has only conceded four goals in the last fourteen league matches. Unfortunately, Velkovski has only played a small part in this meanness.
Moved back into a defensive midfield position alongside national team staple Nikola Gligorov, Velkovski is no longer assured of a first team berth and has seen the more attack minded Boban Nikolov and Juan Felipe –recruits this summer – picking up starts where Velkovski may have expected to play.
Velkovski looks, right now, to have been a victim of Vardar’s ambition to become one of the Balkan states’ leading sides. Good recruits have been brought in to bolster the ranks and whatever sold Vardar to Velkovski in terms of ambition, has conspired against him. The experienced centre back pairing of Nemanja Mijuskovic and Boban Grncarov looks unshakable, only an injury to either will open a door. The opportunity to move abroad perhaps would have been better, but another option was selected. One of Europe’s once most sought after teenagers will have to raise his game considerably or drift off into obscurity.
C- You’ve got to fight for your right to party
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