Name: Nikita Rukavytsya
Club: Maccabi Haifa
Estimated Value: €700,000
Position: CF, LW, LAMF
Matches: 16, 1248 minutes
Goals (assists): 4 (0)
Nikita Rukavytsya will be familiar with many Australian football fans, having came up through the ranks of Western Australian football to join Perth Glory (2007-09) and then spending a season with Western Sydney Wanderers (2014/15).
He busrt on the scene as lacy left-sided player that invariably invoked comparisons to Australia’s most famous left-foot, Harry Kewell. He even won the Harry Kewell medal in 2008/09 after an impressive return of 10 goals from 19 games in the Aleague.
This led to a move abroad with Dutch side FC Twente but it wasn’t until a 2010/11 move to 2.Bundesliga side that the left winger started to find his feet abroad. In his first season in Germany, he led the league in assists and his side won promotion.
The following year he got to experience the top flight in Germany but the club struggled and were relegated. Rukavystya would transfer to Mainz 05 where he’d make 9 league and cup appearances. He would move once more back to the 2.Bundesliga with FSV Frankfurt.
He’d make 20 appearances for a return of 2 goals and 1 assist that season before leaving the following season to return to Australia with Western Sydney Wanderers. He brought with him a lot of expectation having spent a good portion of his career in Germany and being an international.
The 2014/15 season was a tough one for club and player. The Wanderers struggled in the league (9th), knocked out in the group stage of the Asian Champions League, and were one and done in the FA Cup after being knocked out by NPL side, Adelaide City. Rukavytsya would make 28 appearances for 4 goals in all competitions and it was his wastefulness in front of goal which drew a lot of ire from fans as would be expected in such a disappointing season.
Once more Rukavytsya would be on the move. This time to Israel where he joined Ligat Ha’Al side, Beitar Jerusalem FC. He’d have a great start to life in Israel finishing second in the goal scoring charts with 14 goals from 30 league games.
This success would bring with it yet another move, so after a solitary season he joined his sixth club in six seasons, Maccabi Haifa. He has managed to find stabilty with his current club and finds himself currently in the third season with them. He even earnt a preliminary call-up to the Socceroos‘ World Cup squad last year.
For Maccabi Haifa he has played mostly as a left winger or centre forward. Sixteen league games in to this season, Rukavytsya has 4 goals. He has scored every goal when he has been played solely as a centre forward (5 games as a CF for 4 goals) including three goals in his last three games.
He has one goal from his head, two from his left foot in open play and his most recent one was from a free kick from the right side of the box. His time at Weastern Sydney painted a certain picture for many Aussie fans but he has shown to be much more accurate in front of goal in Israel. Last season he was second in the league in shot accuracy (50%) and this season he is fourth on 43.24% (2.58 shots per game).
Passing-wise he plays 22.06 passes a game for a 79.9% accuracy (forward passes 71%, back passes 89.6%) and while he doesn’t have any direct assists, he has 2 second assist and 1 third assist.
He has the ninth most touches inside the box with 48 (3.35 per game) spending less time on the touch line as he might be known for back home in Australia. This can be seen from his crossing rate of 0.95 per game when he plays in a side that leads the league in crosses per game with just under 17 crosses per game. More than double the crosses come in from the right flank than the left flank with right-footed defender Ernest Mabouka and right-footed forward Amit Zenati contributing almost 12 of the 17 crosses between them.
According to the heat map, Rukavytsya has spent most of this season coming in from the left in a deeper position behind the forwards. As touched on above, the recent shift to the central forward role has yielded the output that had been missing.
The days of the pacy left winger running at defences might be over with his dribbling (1.61 per game, 65.2% success) and progressive runs (0.77 per game) down on his career average. However, as a central forward he’s enjoying the kind of output that brought him to the attention of the nation back in his Glory days.