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Montenegro's Petković relishes Chelsea stint

Buoyed by a recent training camp at Chelsea FC, Danijel Petković, who plies his trade in the Montenegrin second tier, hopes to "do something special" in Under-21 qualifying.

Danijel Petković in action for Montenegro Under-21s against Germany
Danijel Petković in action for Montenegro Under-21s against Germany ©Getty Images

Though Danijel Petković is still plying his trade with FK Bokelj in the Montenegrin second tier, he is already an influential figure for his country's Under-21 side and recently caught the eye of Premier League powerhouses Chelsea FC.

Goalkeeper Petković has helped Montenegro to within sight of a place in the play-offs for next year's UEFA European U21 Championship in the Czech Republic. Dušan Vlaisavljević's charges are second to Germany in qualifying round Group 6, though only the ten section winners and four best runners-up are guaranteed to make the play-offs. For Petković, being involved is reward enough.

"It is unusual that a player from a second division side in a smaller country such as Montenegro plays regularly for the national team," he said. "That's why I am grateful for the chance I have got from coach Dušan Vlaisavljević. I hope I am paying him back for the confidence he has in me."

There has been plenty of recognition from elsewhere. In January, for example, Petković was invited by goalkeeping coach Christophe Lollichon to spend a week at a Chelsea training camp. "That was unbelievable," he said. "Lollichon is a well-known coach, one of the best, and it was a great honour to work with him and the great Petr Čech. I felt privileged to train with them, to see how things work at the highest level and to get advice from them. Now I will try to implement what I have learned. I am sure this experience will help me in the future."

Currently though Petković, who has also represented his country at U19 and U17 levels, is focused on here and now – and matters closer to home. "The national team gives me and other young players a lot of joy and opportunities," he added. "I have gained lot of experience at youth level, and now hope the U21 side can do something special and book a place in the play-offs.

"We have two away games left, against Romania and the Faroe Islands. We have the quality to win both matches and I am sure with six points we will be among the four best second-placed teams. This would be a big achievement for my generation and Montenegrin football."

On a personal level, Petković is in no rush to find pastures new despite overtures from elsewhere. "It's hard to explain why I am still at Bokelj," he said. "Maybe I am a local patriot, but I love my club and my home town. I have had calls from first division sides for years, but I am waiting for the right offer, for the right reason to leave Bokelj and Kotor.

"One day it will happen and I want to be sure I make the right choice by joining a club who can offer me the chance to improve. I think it will happen. I am very committed and don't think about short-term success. I want to find a club that suits me professionally for a long period."