Summer signing Ester Sokler has the quality, pace and aerial threat to terrorise Scottish defenders says the manager who sold him to Aberdeen.
Sokler was secured in a £300,000 transfer from Slovenian top-flight club NK Radomlje on a three-year deal.
NK Radomlje manager Oliver Bogatinov was desperate to retain the striker, who had a season left on his contract.
Bogatinov revealed Aberdeen fought off competition from clubs in Austria and Belgium to sign the 24-year-old forward.
He fears it will be impossible to replace a striker of Sokler’s quality, who he reckons has the potential to be a Slovenian senior international.
Bogatinov said: “Ester is an attacker with excellent abilities.
“He has that extra pace, acceleration and real ability.
“Ester is excellent at heading and possesses very good jumping ability.
“He has good timing to attack the defensive line and also has a strong shot with his right foot.
“With those kind of qualities, it makes it very difficult for central defenders to stop him.”
Striker feeds off good service
Slovenian club Maribor were also reportedly interested in landing Sokler this summer.
Last season Sokler scored 10 goals in 30 appearances for NK Radomlje in the Slovenian PrvaLIGA.
In March and April this year, Sokler netted in seven different games.
That impressive goal return spearheaded NK Radomlje’s 10-match unbeaten streak, where the club secured 22 points from a possible 30.
Bogatinov insists the goals will also come for Sokler at Aberdeen – if he has the right bond and service from his Pittodrie team-mates.
He said: “Ester has a lot of qualities but also requires chemistry with team-mates.
“He is the one who usually works for the team with attacking openings.
“If you want Ester’s finishing abilities then he needs good crosses and balls from team-mates.”
Interest from Austria and Belgium
Sokler’s goal spree in the latter months of the campaign made him Radomlje’s leading scorer – and a wanted man.
When he accepted Sokler would exit, Bogatinov was happy it was to a club with the stature and ambition of Aberdeen.
He said: “I wanted Ester to stay with us for sure.
“A lot of clubs showed interest, ones in Austria and a Belgian club.
“When offers started to come to the club I knew immediately that sooner or later he would leave.
“However, at the same time I am happy for Ester that he has moved to Aberdeen.
“At this point we have a big problem as it is impossible to find players similar to him.
“So we must change a lot of things in our club to try to compete for next season.
“That is okay though as that is our financial model.”
‘Ester was one of our key players’
NK Ramomlje suffered a disastrous first half of the Slovenian league campaign with just one win under former manager Nermin Basic.
Sokler only scored one goal during that period.
However, Radomlje changed manager and appointed Bogatinov in January.
It was the catalyst for the upturn in the club’s fortunes, and Sokler’s.
Sokler netted a double in the 2-1 win against FC Koper in February this year to end Radomlje’s 19-game run without a victory.
That brace was the start of a goal spree from Sokler which hauled them out of the relegation zone to finish seventh.
Bogatinov, who was previously with NK Maribor and FC Koper, said: “I started working with Ester in January.
“In that first week of training, I went to speak with him.
“I said to Ester that with the ability he possesses, if he shoots he will score much more goals than he did in the previous season.
“He proved that on the pitch in an excellent way.
“Ester was one of the key players in our club and in our team.
“He was one of the most responsible for the result which we achieved in the last six months of staying in the league.
“Not just staying in the league, but also playing good football.
“Early in that stage we gained enough points to finish the season without big stress.”
Slovenian national team prospects
The striker scored 10 goals in 50 appearance for NK Celje before signing for NK Radomlje in summer 2022.
Dons attacker Sokler has been capped by Slovenia at both under-21 and under-18 level.
His only under-21 cap came in a 3-0 loss to Georgia in March 2020.
Bogatinov, 44, believes moving to Aberdeen can propel Sokler into contention for a call-up to the Slovenian senior squad.
He said: “Aberdeen were third in the league last season which speaks a lot for them.
“They are working very well.
“I can just be happy that Aberdeen noticed and followed up the Slovenian league for players that suit their philosophy and style of play.
“For sure, Ester could get into the Slovenia first team.
“If he starts scoring for Aberdeen in the Scottish Premiership and Europe, then for sure.
“The Slovenian national team players are normally the ones in good form, they must be the best at the specific moment.
“I think if Ester plays well for Aberdeen he could get into the team.
“He can show the national team coach that he has the qualities for international level.”
Sokler is one of five signings secured so far by Aberdeen boss Barry Robson this summer.
Robson recently confirmed the Dons are closing in on more transfer targets.
Aberdeen hope to have more signings secured before the first pre-season friendly away to Turriff United on Wednesday, July 12.