Edin Džeko is Rejuvenated at Roma
10th May 2017.
Any Manchester City fans stumbling upon coverage of a Roma game this season could be forgiven for not recognizing the tall, powerful forward banging in goal after goal for the Giallorossi. But the imposing figure in the No.9 shirt, the man who tops the Serie A scoring charts this season with 27 goals in 35 games, in none other than former City striker Edin Džeko.
In five season at the Etihad Stadium, Džeko, though a regular goal scorer, was never taken into the hearts of the City faithful in quite the same way as the more prolific Sergio Agüero or diminutive genius David Silva.
When the towering, 6ft 4ins Bosnian was shipped out to Roma on loan in the summer of 2015, before then making the move permanent last year, there were few on the blue side of Manchester sad to see him go.
However, since settling in the Italian capital, Džeko has marked himself out once again as one of the deadliest forwards in Europe, netting a phenomenal 37 goals in all competitions this term.
In fairness, even Roma fans were sceptical of their club’s move to bring in the 84-cap Bosnia and Herzegovina international two summers ago, and even more so of the decision to make the Stadio Olimpico Džeko’s permanent home last year after an underwhelming return of 10 goals from 38 games in his first season in Italy.
Few such dissenting voices remain now, however. It may not have been quite enough to power a serious challenge to Juventus’ dominance of the Italian top flight, but the fact that Džeko leads the race to become this season’s Capocannoniere – the award given to Serie A’s leading goal-scorer each campaign – is all the more remarkable considering the level of competition he is up against.
At Juventus, there is Gonzalo Higuaín, the man whose record-breaking haul last term earned him a €90million move to the Old Lady; Inter Milan captain Mauro Icardi is one of the most lethal marksmen on the planet and has been at the top of his game this season; Torino’s Andrea Belotti has become one of the hottest properties in Europe and could be set for a €100 million move this summer; and Belgian forward Dries Mertens has transformed himself into one of the Continent’s most prolific strikers under Maurizio Sarri at Napoli.
Džeko stands above them all, currently two goals clear of Belotti.
Renowned for his aerial prowess, the former Wolfsburg star has shown the kind of subtlety to his game that largely went unappreciated in the Premier League. More than just a battering ram, a physical presence up top to loft high balls towards, Džeko has shown himself to be an accurate finisher with either foot and, though lacking pace, possessing the kind of intelligent movement that regularly sees him escape the attention of rival defenders.
He also has six assists to his name – a figure that, of Serie A’s 10 highest scorers, only Icardi (eight), Lorenzo Insigne (seven) and Alejandro “Papu” Gómez (10) can better. This shows that the Bosnian is able to link effectively with his team-mates and does not think twice about picking out a colleague if he feels they are in a better position to score.
Indeed, no player in Serie A this season, as either creator or scorer, has been directly involved in more goals that Džeko (33).
The fact that City were able to recoup €15million from Džeko’s initial loan and subsequent sale was seen as good business in England. The 31-year-old was supposedly beyond his peak years and was only ever going to play second fiddle to Agüero; the prospect of Gabriel Jesus’s arrival at the Etihad in January would only have knocked the veteran striker further down the pecking order.
It would be fair to say, too, that Džeko would have been an ill-fit for Pep Guardiola’s system. The Catalan tactician prizes fluid movement and interchanging of positions in his forward line. The Bosnian’s relative lack of athleticism may have seen him fall short.
But it is easy to forget that Džeko was once a £27 million signing for the Citizens – back in 2011 when £27 million was still a very significant sum to fork out for a player.
Coming from Bundesliga side Wolfsburg, where he had scored 85 goals in 142 games — including one in a Champions League tie at Old Trafford against the Sky Blues’ great rivals Manchester United – Džeko’s signing was somewhat of a statement by City, an indication of their continuing commitment to secure Europe’s best and brightest at almost any cost.
At the time of his signing, Džeko became the second-most expensive purchase in City’s history, behind only the 2008 arrival of Robinho from Real Madrid for a once-British record fee of £32.5 million.
So, with all that in mind, the Roma striker is perhaps remembered as somewhat of a disappointment in England, having never really established himself as one of the very best centre-forwards in the Premier League.
However, that view undersells Džeko’s importance to City over his four seasons with the club. Twice a Premier League winner – in addition to an FA Cup and a League Cup – the imposing striker’s return of a league goal every 142 minutes is the eighth-best since the English top flight was rebranded in 1992.
Furthermore, although Luis Suárez was the division’s top scorer in the 2013-14 season, it was Džeko’s run of prolific form — netting five times in the last four games of the season — that drove City to pip Liverpool to the title that year.
José Mourinho, who was in charge of Chelsea at the time, recognised Džeko’s contribution to City’s title charge, picking out the Bosnian when asked who he thought should be player of the season: “If I have to choose, I choose Džeko,” the Portuguese manager said.
“When the team needed him in crucial moments of the season, I think he made the difference.”
Having left City with a thoroughly respectable record of 72 goals in 189 appearances (many of which from the substitutes’ bench), maybe it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise that Džeko is succeeding at Roma. The only difference is that now he is getting some long overdue credit.