It was 11th January, 2011 and Roberto Mancini, the Manchester City manager, talked up his club’s new signing, Edin Džeko, as the “perfect player.” Džeko’s 26 Bundesliga goals in 2008/09 had led Wolfsburg to the title, with Mancini and Manchester City looking to repeat the trick in England using the Bosnian.
The Sky Blues have had Middle-Eastern sugar daddy owners since 2008, but failed to challenge the Premier League’s big boys. Similar to Wolfsburg with the Bundesliga before 2009, City had never won the Premier League, and Džeko’s arrival was to change the history at City.
“I hope Edin can make the difference between second place and first,” Mancini said upon signing Džeko. And so it proved. The Bosnian made only 16 starts in City’s title-winning 2011/12 campaign, but each of his 14 goals made the difference, as the Sky Blues won the title on goal difference.
Fast forward a few years, and Džeko is now at AS Roma. At Manchester City, he hasn’t been forgotten yet. In September, the club’s official website featured him as a Manchester derby icon ahead of the first league game between City and local rivals Manchester United this season.
“It’s impossible not to like Džeko, as he’s a fine professional and gets along with everybody,” his agent, Silvano Martina, revealed to Calciomercato earlier this month, speaking about his client’s character traits. Hence, it comes as no surprise to see Džeko reaping the benefits of his professionalism after two wretched years.
This season, the 30-year-old has dominated almost every attacking metric in Serie A. After two forgettable years where he scored only 16 goals in all competitions, Džeko is back to the form which took him to City six years ago, and led the Citizens to two Premier League titles.
Džeko is Serie A’s top scorer with ten goals from ten appearances this term. According to WhoScored.com, his 3.8 shots from inside the penalty area is the league’s highest, and he leads the league in shots on target as well, with 2.7 per game. Džeko has redeemed himself like no other player this season, after going through a few bumps in the time leading up to 2016/17.
End of his time at City
He found himself falling down City’s striker pecking order months after he had been signed amid much fanfare. Manchester City broke the bank to sign Sergio Aguero in the summer of 2011, and Džeko was no longer the main man for the Citizens.
He ploughed on, however, and were it not for his goals, City wouldn’t have won league titles in 2012 and 2014. In those title-winning campaigns, Džeko scored a combined 30 goals for Mancini and Manuel Pellegrini’s sides. Yet he remained undervalued, and the loan deal to send him to Roma in summer 2015 marked the end of his time in Manchester.
Up to speed after slow start in Rome
He had seen in Manchester how he was pushed to the sidelines year after year, despite supplying a constant stream of goals. Aguero, Alvaro Negredo, Stevan Jovetic, and Wilfried Bony were all signed to add to Džeko; their signings showed that Džeko was never going to be first choice at Eastlands.
At Roma though, things were different from those at City. When Džeko joined Roma, the club had no out-and-out centre forward. Legend Francesco Totti — one of the first false nines in European football — was on his last legs, and nearing 40. Džeko had landed in the perfect place, one where he could lead the attack.
There was little hint of the old Džeko in Rome last season. At 29, he looked past his prime and laboured to score just eight league goals in 21 starts. Injuries and a suspension cut his time on the pitch, and a managerial change was the last thing Džeko needed at his career’s lowest ebb.
Džeko’s agent spoke briefly on last season’s difficulties:
It was not an easy campaign for various reasons. A new coach arrived, there were other strikers doing very well, he needed to settle into a new style of football that was much more tactical. It was just an issue of time. Yes, there was a moment of difficulty, but he reacted in a strong way.
A goal against Juventus and two more against Roma’s city rivals Lazio aside, nothing was worth remembering about Džeko’s first season in Italy. Despite earning a permanent contract at Roma soon after moving on loan, Džeko’s future in the Italian capital was far from secure.
However, the Bosnian has found his feet as well as form this season, and turned into one of Serie A’s outstanding goal poachers.
Gonzalo Higuain enjoyed his redemption in Serie A after spending time on the fringes at Real Madrid. Džeko, at Roma, is another supposed outcast from a bigger club to have taken sanctuary in Serie A. His scoring run so far in 2016/17 could take him past Higuain’s record 36 goals from 2015/16, if he plays every minute from now on and scores at the same rate.
From his native Bosnia-Herzegovina to the bright lights of the big European leagues, Džeko’s journey to the top is smeared with goals, glory, and a few disappointments. It looks like he has found a safe haven in Rome in a league where goalscorers never seem to turn old. Just ask Totti, or Luca Toni, Roma’s last pure number 9.