“He’s an outstanding person. He’s a club legend. He never put himself above others. Even with the younger players he talked on a par, giving them advice. He’s probably the best player ever of not only Lokomotiv, but of all Russian football”.
This is how current former Lokomotiv Moscow defender Taras Burlak, currently with Rubin Kazan, described Dmitriy Loskov in 2015. More than four years have passed since Loskov wore Lokomotiv’s kit for the last time, but now the Kurgan-born midfielder is ready to write history with the Red-Greens once again. On August 18, he was appointed Assistant Coach at Lokomotiv, and all in all this looks like one of the best decisions made at Cherkizovo in recent times.
However, unlike what most people think, Loskov’s career didn’t start Moscow but in Rostov-on-Don, where he moved in 1990 thanks to his coach and friend Aleksandr Siyanov after a successful spell at Metallurg Kurgan.
The period in Southern Russia turned out to be very prolific for Loskov, who despite his young age (20) quickly became a regular on his new team, becoming a one-to-watch player for all Russian and ex-Soviet top clubs of that period.
Loskov later admitted that CSKA Moscow, Shakhtar Donetsk and Zenit St. Petersburg all expressed interest at that time. He even flew to Donetsk together with his wife where he met, the at that time, President Akhat Bragin to talk about a possible future in the Eastern Ukraine and to attend a Miners game. That decision however, was close to turning fatal, as Loskov was nearly involved in a bomb explosion, which would have killed him. The avoided tragedy heavily marked him and so he decided to reject a move to Ukraine. Hence, among all offers, in the end he chose to sign for Lokomotiv because of Yuri Semin.
His first months in Moscow were really tough as he needed time adapt to a completely new reality. Semin was a very demanding head coach and the young Loskov was surrounded by more experienced players like Vladimir Maminov, Yuri Drozdov, Aleksey Kosolapov and Yevgeni Kharlachev. Loskov even considered the opportunity to come back to Rostov in order to gain more playing time, but Semin convinced him to stay.
This turned out to be a good decision, as soon after Kosolapov left Lokomotiv in favour of Spain and Sporting Gijon, which opened a spot in the starting line-up for Dima (as Loskov was often called by teammates and fans).
His incredible capacity to play equally with both feet and his excellent football vision made Loskov one of the most complete Russian midfielders ever. Thanks also to his great attitude, Dima became a key player in the 4-2-3-1 formation that Semin built around him.
After years of preparation and development, Lokomotiv finally won the club’s first ever championship in 2002, and Loskov was one of the primary reasons for this, which was perfectly exemplified by the fact that he scored the winning goal in the last game of the season against CSKA, which elevated Lokomotiv to first place. Afterwards, Russia’s most notable newspaper Sport Express chose him as the Player of the Season.
Two years later, he doubled his prize list by winning another title. After that, the icing on the cake was the call from the Russia national team for the European championship in Portugal. Unfortunately, nothing went according to plan and Loskov had a marginal role in the squad.
In general, his relationship with Sbornaya and the various coaches was problematic. During his entire career, he earned just 25 caps, and the fact that he never exploited his huge talent in international tournaments remains a regret for both Loskov and Russian football fans.
A year after the Railroaders had secured their second championship however, something happened to Loskov and Lokomotiv’s performances. After the injury of star striker Dmitry Sychev, neither could copy their form from the past, and despite Dima scoring an incredible hattrick against Brøndby in the UEFA Cup, bringing Lokomotiv back from 0-2 down to 3-2, the golden days were fading away.
“Sychev is the most comfortable partner I’ve ever played with” – Loskov told Championat. “He had not only speed but was able to find spaces. We used to understand each other in a second. We had an advantage against defenders. He knew where I would pass the ball, so he could start running before others. After the injury, he lost some speed. Moreover, by then he started missing more chances in order not only to score but also to gain trust in himself”.
The straw that broke the camel’s back was the departure of Semin in 2006, and the later arrival of Anatoliy Byshovets, who thought the whole team was against him. The conflict between Byshovets and the squad became so serious that it forced Loskov to leave Loko in 2007.
In order to stay as close as possible to his family, he opted for a transfer to Saturn Ramenskoye, who was based in Moscow’s neighborhood.
He spent three profitable years with the Black-Blues, and in some sense of poetic justice, his first goal for the club was away against Lokomotiv and his close friend, the goalkeeper Sergey Ovchinnikov. That day, the fans had filled the entire Lokomotiv Stadium with homemade banners honoring Loskov and his legacy at Cherkizovo.
When Saturn, in 2010, decided not to renew Loskov’s contract, he was once again on the lookout for a new club. Luckily for him, Semin returned to Lokomotiv at the same time, and Loskov returned to his beloved Railroaders.
At 36 however, Dima was not the same player anymore, and he could no longer carry the whole team on his back for an entire game. As time went by, he received less and less playing time, but instead carried out an important role in the dressing room and on the bench, where he became a role model and an inspiration for the other players in the squad, who looked up to the legend for advice and leadership.
The appointment of Slaven Bilic as new head coach in the summer of 2012 marked the end to Loskov’s career. On September 1 he made his last appearance for Lokomotiv, when they took on Torpedo Armavir in the Russian Cup.
Since that game, he’s yet to play his official farewell match, but new Lokomotiv’s new president, Ilya Gerkus, recently ensured fans that Loskov could take part in the current edition of the Russian Premier League.
Although there’s ambiguity around how Dima ended his career, he remains one of the best players in the history of Russian football. He’s not only the player with most appearances (420) and goals (128) for Lokomotiv, but also the most assissts (155) and the player with the most seasons in the top flight (19). Furthermore, only Sergey Semak has played more games than he has in the Premier League.
Now he’s back at Lokomotiv, and his task for the future is not only to learn how to rule a team, but also to take over as Loko head coach one day.
“I can compare my comeback to Lokomotiv to when you return home to your parents and close friends” – Loskov told the media after his appointment, “I see many fans at the stadium. We must stay together and try to win.”
Lokomotiv are currently struggling to earn points and to provide good performances. The presence of Loskov however could certainly help the Railwaymen to return to the good old days, but time is needed. Fans have recently showed complete trust in Semin and his staff, with Lokomotiv finally seeming like the coziest team in Russia again. The next months are crucial to understand whether Loko will repeat Dinamo’s fate or not. One thing is for certain though; Loskov will do his best to avoid that and this is undoubtedly a good foundation on which to build a solid team.
Follow Stefano on Twitter: @ConfortiStefano
Author: Stefano Conforti
Half Russian, half Italian. Football writer and Lokomotiv Moscow supporter. Founder of the FCLMblog, the only blog about Lokomotiv outside Russia, and FCLMmagazine, which is the first magazine in English for an Eastern Europe football club. I’m interested in everything related to Russia and the post-Soviet world.