"I'm just a fighter," said Lokomotiv Moskva striker Baye Oumar Niasse as he reflected on the fine form that has made him one of the stars of the group stage so far.
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With three goals and as many assists in four games, Lokomotiv Moskva striker Baye Oumar Niasse is one of the breakthrough stars of this UEFA Europa League campaign.
Niasse's latest European strike came in the 1-1 draw with a Beşiktaş side he had previously faced while playing for Akhisar Belediyespor in the Turkish Super League two seasons ago. With seven Russian Premier-Liga goals also to his name this term, what is the secret to Niasse's recent success?
"Just working hard, like I always do," the 25-year-old told UEFA.com. "I'm not just a good player, I'm a fighter. I'll always fight until the end in any team and that's why I'm having these results now."
Niasse, though, looks very much the "good player" he denies being. Indeed, he has made an almost immediate impact almost everywhere he has been, ever since starting his career by winning titles with boyhood club Ouakam in Senegal. Though a brief spell with Brann in Norway yielded little, his next step, in Turkey, proved to be a milestone.
In summer 2013, Akhisar Belediyespor's veteran defender Ibrahima Sonko recommended Niasse, encouraging the club to hand him a trial. He impressed coach Hamza Hamzaoğlu , now at Galatasaray, and was handed a permanent contract, ending the 2013/14 campaign with 15 goals in all competitions to help his new employers avoid relegation. Lokomotiv swooped, luring him to Russia for €5.5m.
After an inconsistent first season, he now looks to have settled in. "I'm playing hard and I am doing my best for the team – that's why I'm playing well this season," he said.
His pace and instincts in front of goal look the perfect fit for Lokomotiv, top of UEFA Europa League Group H despite being up against Beşiktaş and Sporting CP. "We're still first in our group, we have one more game at home and then we go to Skënderbeu in Albania," added Niasse. "If we don't lose and we stay compact as a team, we can easily go through from this group."
Should they do so, Niasse will have played no small part. Team-mate Ján Ďurica told UEFA.com: "He's a very good forward and has helped the team in many games this season. Maybe some big clubs in Europe [will be watching him], we shall see. He is a very important player for Lokomotiv."