|Full name||Elis Ermal Bakaj|
|Date of birth||25 June 1987|
|Place of birth||Tirana, Albania|
|Height||1.75 m (5 ft 9 in)|
|Playing position||Attacking midfielder|
|* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only and correct as of 9 June 2016.
‡ National team caps and goals correct as of 24 August 2015
Bakaj began his career as a youth player for KF Kristali, before moving to Partizani Tirana. In 2002, he started his professional career with Partizani, playing until 2009 before moving to rivals of Dinamo Tirana. After playing with them for two years, he moved outside of Albania and signed with the Romanian club Dinamo Bucureşti. After one season with White and Reds, he moved in Ukraine and signed with Chornomorets Odessa. Due to the civil unrest caused by the 2014 Ukrainian revolution, Bakaj returned to Albania and signed with KF Tirana, his third club inside of Tirana.
An international footballer for Albania since 2008, Bakaj has earned over 25 caps for his country. He debuted in 2008 and scored his first goal with Red and Blacks four years later.
- 1 Club career
- 2 International career
- 3 Career statistics
- 4 Honours
- 5 References
- 6 External links
Bakaj joined his first club KF Kristali in May 1996 at the age of eight, where he would only remain until October. Despite only playing for the club for less than six months, he still managed to be named the player of the year in the youth league.
For the next six months, Elis was trained personally by former Albanian international and Dinamo Tirana player Andrea Marko. In June 1997 he joined Partizani Tirana under the guidance of coach Gazmend Kraja, where he worked his way up the ranks of the club. He amazed the club, including its president Albert Xhani, who in January 2002 sent Bakaj into the club's senior side.
He joined Partizani's first team at the age of 15 in January 2002 on a seven-year contract with a minimal wage of just 150,000 Lekë a season. His official Partizani debut came in the 2003 Intertoto Cup against Israeli side Maccabi Netanya, where coach Perlat Musta played Bakaj in the final seven minutes of the game.
In September 2003, Partizani's new coach Ilir Spahiu sent Bakaj on loan to FC Nacionali, a Partizani feeder team playing in the Albanian Second Division. The Nacionali coach Genci Tomorri gave Bakaj the opportunity of regular first team football, allowing the youngster to show his talent and score goals. In January 2004 his loan was ended and he returned to Partizani where the previous coach Spahiu had left and Sulejman Mema had now taken charge.
Bakaj's first senior Partizani goal came on 24 March 2004 in the Albanian Cup quarter finals against KF Elbasani, where he scored the winning goal in the 74th minute to send his side through to the semi finals. In this season, Partizani eventually won the Albanian Cup.
On 8 January 2009, Bakaj completed a move to Dinamo Tirana for €100,000, becoming the most expensive player in the club's history. He was presented one day later, where he signed a three-year contract, and was given the squad number 19 for the second part of the 2008–09 season.
In January 2011, in the last hours before the expiration of the winter transfer window, Bakaj moved to Dinamo Bucureşti. He signed a contract for five years with the Romanian team. The Albanian squad accepted the offer of €200,000 because he entered the final six months of his contract. He was recommended to Dinamo Bucureşti by their former glory, the Albanian star Sulejman Demollari, who played for the Bucharest team between 1991 and 1995 and scored 36 goals in 100 games.
Bakaj made his debut for Dinamo on 26 February 2011, when he played in the last 17 minutes in a Liga I game against Sportul Studenţesc. He opened his scoring account later on 12 April, scoring the third and final goal of the 3–1 home win against Unirea Urziceni.
Due to the civil unrest caused by the 2014 Ukrainian revolution, Bakaj agreed to be released from his contract with Chornomorets Odessa as he looked for a return to Albania. He was reportedly close to signing with his first club Partizani Tirana, but a deal was not agreed to, so he joined Kukësi on 12 March 2014, pending FIFA clearance. He signed a contract until the end of the 2013–14 season, as well as any European games the club would be involved in, should they qualify. His wage was reported to be €40,000, making him one of the highest paid players in the league's history. However, FIFA did not give him the permit to play, so Bakaj terminated the contract and left the club only two weeks following his arrival.
After his departure from Kukësi, Bakaj joined fellow Albanian Superliga side Skënderbeu Korçë on 9 June 2014 for the club's European campaign. However, he was released by the club after only one month.
Without playing a single minute for Skënderbeu Korçë, Bakaj signed for Tirana on 19 July 2014, a one-year contract, where he was considered as an reinforcement for the club managed by Gugash Magani. He was assigned the vacant number 19 for the upcoming 2014–15 season.
Bakaj made his competitive debut on 24 August 2014, a debut which brought his first goal as well. He played as a starter in the opening match of the 2014–15 season against Apolonia Fier and scored the opening goal in the 24th minute of the match which finished in the 3–0 victory. In the second match of the season against Flamurtari Vlorë, he delivered the cross that forced goalkeeper Ilion Lika to make a mistake which resulted in an own goal, helping Tirana to prevail 1–0 at Qemal Stafa Stadium.
In the matchday 4 against the newcomers of Elbasani, Bakaj was sent off in the 91st minute after he insulted the referee Klajdi Kola, resulting in a two-match ban for him. On 18 October, he scored his first goal for the club, a spectacular overhead kick in a 3–1 win against Kukësi at Qemal Stafa Stadium, helping the club to take the league lead temporarily. Later in October, Bakaj scored the only goal of his team against Sopoti Librazhd in the second leg of the Albanian Cup's second round, securing a 4–1 aggregate victory and progression to the quarter-finals. He was the Albanian Superliga Player of the Month for October 2015 after playing four matches and scoring three goals.
On 23 November, in the matchday 13 against Elbasani, Bakaj made a splendid performance by first providing the Gentian Muça's goal from a set-piece and also scoring a set-piece himself as Tirana bounced back to win the match 3–2 in the very last moments. In the last match of 2015, Bakaj netted twice against Teuta Durrës in an eventual 4–2 home success.
He started the new year by providing the Ndikumana's winner against Flamurtari Vlorë on 30 January, and scored a winner himself against Vllaznia Shkodër in the last moments of the match. On 18 April, Bakaj scored his tenth league goal of the season in a 3–1 away success against Elbasani. In the last derby of the season against Partizani Tirana on 4 May, Bakaj scored a brace in a 2–2 draw as Tirana lost further ground in the title race.
On 11 May, it was raported that Bakaj would leave Tirana at the end of the season to sign with the Israeli side Hapoel Ra'anana. In the last match of the season, he scored the winner as Tirana won at home against Teuta Durrës to end the season with honour, despite failing to win the title and to qualify in the European competitions. Bakaj finished the season as the team's top goal scorer with 15 goals between league and cup in 32 appearances.
Bakaj signed a three-year contract with Israelian club Hapoel Ra'anana and was allocated squad number 80. He made his competitive debut with the club on 1 August in the goalless draw against Maccabi Netanya for the 2015–16 Toto Cup Al, playing for 62 minutes. He netted his first goal eight days later in a 1–1 home draw against Hapoel Be'er Sheva, another match valid for Toto Cup Al. Later, on 22 August, Bakaj debuted in Israeli Premier League by playing 61 minutes in a 2–2 home draw against Hapoel Kfar Saba, which would be his last last league appearance for the club. However, Bakaj suddenly terminated his contract with the club and become a free agent. The main reason for this, according to the Israeli media, was his fiancée, who wanted to return to Albania.
Return to Tirana
After only three months in Israel, on 29 August, Bakaj returned to Tirana by signing a one-year contract with an option of a further one, taking his squad number 19. He was presented to the media one day later. He made his return debut on 12 September in the matchday 3 against Bylis Ballsh which ended in a goalless draw at home. He scored his first goal of the season in returning leg of 2015–16 Albanian Cup's first round against Erzeni Shijak, which ended in a 2–0, securing a 3–0 aggregate victory and progression to the second round.
Bakaj scored his first league goal on 7 November against the newcomers of Tërbuni Pukë which ended in a 3–0 home win, enduring a 581-minute scoreless run. Two weeks later, he scored a spectacular volley against Bylis Ballsh, just like "van Basten goal" in the UEFA Euro 1988 Final against Soviet Union, giving his team a 1–0 away win. On 30 November, in the first match at the newly renovated Selman Stërmasi Stadium, Bakaj scored the only goal of his team in a 2–1 defeat to Skënderbeu Korçë. He scored his brace of the season on 13 December in the 2–0 away win to Flamurtari Vlorë, taking his tally up to 5 goals. He started the new year by scoring in the team's 3–1 away win against Tërbuni Pukë. He was named the Albanian Superliga Player of the Month for January 2016, becoming the third player to win the award twice.
One week later, Bakaj scored a sublime free-kick in the 3–0 away win against Laçi, giving Tirana its first win at Laçi Stadium since 5 May 2012 where Tirana won thanks to a winner of Bekim Balaj. However, he was booked during the meaning that he would miss the following league match against Bylis Ballsh at home. On 4 March 2016, he got sent off after receiving two yellow cards after insulting the referee Lorenc Jemini in the 2–0 derby defeat against Partizani Tirana despite being on the pitch for less than 10 minutes after coming on at half time. For his behaviour, Bakaj was banned for four league matches by the Disciplinary Committee of AFA.
Bakaj scored his first league hat-trick in a 3–0 home win against Tërbuni Pukë, returning Tirana in the winning ways after six consecutive league matches without a win. Bakaj become the first player to score a hat-trick for Tirana since Bekim Balaj on 23 October 2011. He followed that by scoring the winner against Laçi to keep the European chances alive.
Bakaj begun May by scoring in the 2–2 home draw against Partizani Tirana in the "Tirana derby". In the last match at home, he scored the winner Vllaznia Shkodër, which was his 13th league strike, equaling his previous season. On final day of the season, he scored the lone goal of his team in a 2–1 away defeat to Kukësi. He ended his second season with Tirana by scoring 15 goals, including 14 in league, being the top goalscorer of the team for the second consecutive season.
On 9 June 2016, he signed a two-year contract for the Croatian Prva HNL team RNK Split, following in the footsteps of Sokol Cikalleshi and Amir Rrahmani. Upon signing, Bakaj said, "I'm very happy for the signing, I know Split very well, thanks to Rrahmani and i hope to reward the trust on me. I don't want to disappoint the club directors and I'll try to reward them with my goals. Bakaj made his debut on 16 July in the matchday 1 against HNK Rijeka, playing full-90 minutes in a 3–0 home defeat. He scored his first goal of campaign later on 12 August against HNK Cibalia, scoring via a free kick in an eventual 2–2 home draw. Bakaj left the club on 14 November after claiming that was not paid during his five months at the club, sending the issue to FIFA, ending his RNK Split career with only 10 appearances and one goal, becoming a free agent in the process.
Blocked move to Tirana and Vllaznia Shkodër
After leaving RNK Split in November 2016, Bakaj returned in Albania and begun training with Tirana in order to maintain his form. He said in an interview that his intentions were to play outside, but if not he would play in Albania only with Tirana. He continued to train with Tirana in January, and on 26th, he reached an argument with the club for a contract until the end of 2016–17 season. However, a day later, FIFA blocked the transfer due to Tirana's unpaid debts, forcing the club not to transfer any player during January transfer window, leaving Bakaj still without a team.
Then Bakaj joined fellow Albanian Superliga club Vllaznia Shkodër on a four-month contract, with a reported salary of €20,000. He was presented on 29 January, where he made his first training session with the team, stating that he "would give his best to help the club reach its goals." Bakaj made his competitive debut on 1 February in the first leg of 2016–17 Albanian Cup quarter-final against Teuta Durrës, playing for 82 minutes and receiving positive reviews from the fans as Vllaznia won 1–0. During the match, he was involved in a brawl with Teuta's Bruno Dita, which continued even after the end of the match. Then Bakaj made his league debut four days later against Partizani Tirana at Selman Stërmasi Stadium, opening the score with a first-half volley in an eventual 2–1 defeat.
Bakaj was part of Albania under-21 team in their qualifying campaign of 2009 UEFA European Under-21 Championship, where Albania was placed in Group 1. He played as a starter in team's first encounter against Italy on 1 June 2007, which finished in a 4–0 away defeat. In the second match five days later, Bakaj was decisive for his team, scoring a winner via penalty kick to give his team a win against Faroe Islands. In the matchday 4 against Azerbaijan on 17 October 2007, Bakaj was sent off for a second bookable offence, giving Azerbaijan a man advantage. However, Albania was able to grab a 1–1 draw at Ismat Gayibov Stadium, in Baku.
|Partizani Tirana||2003–04||Albanian Superliga||8||0||0||0||—||—||8||0|
|Dinamo Tirana||2008–09||Albanian Superliga||13||4||1||0||—||—||14||4|
|Dinamo Bucureşti||2010–11||Liga I||16||4||3||0||—||—||19||4|
|Chornomorets Odessa||2011–12||Ukrainian Premier League||10||3||1||1||—||—||11||4|
|Hapoel Ra'anana||2015–16||Israeli Premier League||1||0||4[e]||1||—||—||5||1|
|RNK Split||2016–17||Prva HNL||10||1||0||0||—||—||10||1|
|Vllaznia Shkodër||2016–17||Albanian Superliga||0||0||0||0||—||—||0||0|
|Albania national team|
- As of match played 6 February 2013. Albania score listed first, score column indicates score after each Bakaj goal.
|1||22 May 2012||Campo de Fútbol de Vallecas, Madrid, Spain||23||Qatar||1–0||2–1||Friendly|
- Partizani Tirana
- Dinamo Tirana
- Albanian Superliga Player of the Year (2): 2009, 2010
- Dinamo Tirana Player of the Season (1): 2009–10
- Dinamo Tirana Goal of the Season (2): 2009–10, 2010–11
- Albanian Superliga Player of the Month (2): October 2014, January 2016
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- TRANSFER. Elis Bakaj la Dinamo!
- Bakaj te Dinamo Bukuresht per 200 mije euro
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- Elis Bakaj dodges flying firecracker during Romanian cup final
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- Adela Merko (20 October 2014). "Fitore me supergola, Tirana merr kreun" (in Albanian). Panorama Sport. Retrieved 20 October 2014.
- "Kualifikohet Tirana, Bakaj shmang humbjen" (in Albanian). Panorama Sport. 23 October 2014. Retrieved 23 October 2014.
- "Elis Bakaj è il giocatore del mese di Ottobre" (in Italian). Il Calcio Albanese. 5 November 2014. Retrieved 14 March 2016.
- Mema, Vladimir (24 November 2014). "Përmbysje e çmendur, Ndikumana… 99-ësh" (in Albanian). Panorama Sport. Retrieved 6 December 2015.
- "Teuta humbet 4-2 në Tiranë, por mbetet në vendin e tetë" (in Albanian). Durrës Lajm. 21 December 2014. Retrieved 21 December 2014.
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- "Elbasani-Tirana 1-3 Tirana "përmbys" Elbasanin" (in Albanian). Gazeta Dita. 19 April 2015. Retrieved 19 April 2015.
- "Partizani barazon në derbi, i heq titullin Tiranës, ia jep Skënderbeut!" (in Albanian). Iliria Press. 4 May 2015. Retrieved 19 July 2015.
- Rinald Bregasi (11 May 2015). "Elis Bakaj drejt Izraelit, akord me Hapoel Raanana" (in Albanian). Super Sport Albania. Retrieved 11 May 2015.
- "Partizani vulos Europën ndaj Elbasanit, Tirana mposht Teutën, ja takimet" (in Albanian). Panorama Sport. 22 May 2015. Retrieved 22 May 2015.
- Anton Cicani (12 May 2015). "Bakaj për 3 vjet në Izrael me Hapoel Ranana, "shkes" Salihi" (in Albanian). Sport Ekspres. Retrieved 7 June 2016.
- "Hapoel Ra'anana vs. Maccabi Netanya 0 – 0". Soccerway. 1 August 2015. Retrieved 7 June 2016.
- "Bakaj shënon golin e parë në Izrael (video)" (in Albanian). Lapsi.al. 10 August 2015. Retrieved 7 June 2016.
- "Hapoel Ra'anana vs. Hapoel Kfar Saba 2 – 2". Soccerway. 22 August 2015. Retrieved 7 June 2016.
- "E fejuara e largon nga Izraeli, Bakaj te… Tirana, mesfushori prish kontratën" (in Albanian). Panorama Sport. 24 August 2015. Retrieved 7 June 2016.
- "Elis Bakaj largohet nga Hapoel Ra'anana" (in Albanian). Super Sport Albania. 24 August 2015. Retrieved 7 June 2016.
- "Elis Bakaj rivishet bardheblu" (in Albanian). Sportal.al. 27 August 2015. Retrieved 27 August 2015.
- "Tirana prezanton Elis Bakajn" (in Albanian). Panorama Sport. 28 August 2015. Retrieved 28 August 2015.
- "Zhgënjen Tirana, me Bylisin vetëm 0-0" (in Albanian). Super Sport Albania. 12 September 2015. Retrieved 12 September 2015.
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- "Elis Bakaj futbollisti muajit në Superiore" (in Albanian). KF Tirana. 15 February 2016. Retrieved 15 February 2016.
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- Adi Metaliu (5 May 2016). "Java e 33-të, Tirana largon Partizanin nga titulli" [Week 33, Tirana restrains Partizani from the title] (in Albanian). Super Sport Albania. Retrieved 5 May 2016.
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- "Elis Bakaj potpisao za Split" [Elis Bakaj sign for Split] (in Croatian). RNK Split. 9 June 2016. Retrieved 10 June 2016.
- "Elis Bakaj firmos për RNK Split, ja fjalët e para në Kroaci" [Elis Bakaj sign for RNK Split, here are his first words in Croatia] (in Albanian). Panorama Sport. 9 June 2016. Retrieved 10 June 2016.
- "Split vs. Rijeka 0 – 3". Soccerway. 16 July 2016. Retrieved 14 November 2016.
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- "Intervista/ Elis Bakaj nuk ndryshon mëndhe: Në Superligë vetëm me Tiranën, por..." [Interview, Elis Bakaj doesn't change his mind: In Superliga only with Tirana, but] (in Albanian). Newsport.al. 22 November 2016. Retrieved 31 January 2017.
- "Elis Bakaj nis stërvitjen me Tiranën" [Bakaj starts training with Tirana] (in Albanian). Sportal.al. 20 January 2017. Retrieved 31 January 2017.
- "Lajm i mirë për Tiranën, Elis Bakaj vishet sërish bardheblu" [Good news for Tirana, Elis Bakaj dressed again white and blue] (in Albanian). Panorama Sport. 26 January 2017. Retrieved 31 January 2017.
- "Tirana e pëson nga borxhet, FIFA i bllokon merkaton dhe Bakajn" [Tirana suffers from debts, FIFA blocks their transfer market and Bakaj] (in Albanian). Panorama Sport. 27 January 2017. Retrieved 31 January 2017.
- "20 mijë euro në katër muaj dërgojnë Elis Bakajn te Vllaznia" [€20,000 sends Elis Bakaj to Vllaznia] (in Albanian). Panorama Sport. 28 January 2017. Retrieved 31 January 2017.
- "Bakaj prezantohet te Vllaznia dhe nis stërvitjen me kuqeblutë" [Bakaj presented and starts training with red and blues] (in Albanian). Panorama Sport. 29 January 2017. Retrieved 31 January 2017.
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- "Përplasje në debutim, Elis Bakaj "sherr" me Bruno Ditën" [Clash in the debut, Elis Bakaj "hassle" with Bruno Dita] (in Albanian). Panorama Sport. 2 February 2017. Retrieved 4 February 2017.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Elis Bakaj.|
- Elis Bakaj – UEFA competition record
- Elis Bakaj – FIFA competition record
- Elis Bakaj at National-Football-Teams.com
- Elis Bakaj career statistics at Soccerbase