With an eye for goal and a record that shames most of the top strikers in Europe, Manchester City's number 10 opens up on life in a war torn country, breaking Bundesliga records and why it is all about the team...
“I was six when it began and ten when the hell finally ended,“ he says, “I remember crying through fear when I heard bombs exploding and shells being fired. But as Bosnians we now want to forget the war…”
Equipped as he is then to more than deal with yet another bout of handbags between Balotelli and of the brothers Toure, it is his footballing credentials to which we should turn.
During Wolfsburg’s title winning season of 2007/8, Dzeko (26) and the Brazilian Grafite (28) broke a 40-year old scoring partnership record set by none other than Gerd Muller and Uli Hoeness. Dzeko, though, is a team man to the end. “It was great to score the goals and break that record,” he says, “but the most important thing is that we won the title, that is a very special thing for a young player.”
Dzeko’s career trajectory has been sharp. Unfancied as a youth in Bosnia where he was thought as ‘tall with poor technique’ he listened to a coach who told him that making it was about “one percent talent and 99% work rate,” and grafted his way into the Czech league. Following a moderately successful spell on loan to Ústí nad Labem in 2005, a coach saw enough of him to persuade FK Keplice to pay his Bosnian club, Željezničar, £25,000 for his services.
“It’s like we’ve won the lottery,” said one club director at the time.
How wrong he was.
As a focal point for the attack, his presence, whether in perpetual motion or as a static ‘wall’ to play around, will allow City to play with freedom and should give City’s talented a more readable target to aim at.
His time at FK Teplice was a success, adding lateral movement, a rapidly improving touch and an appreciation of space to his already impressive physical presence, Dzeko top scored with 13 goals in 30 games in 2006/7 and the wily Felix Magath showed no hesitation in dispensing with €4 million to bring the big Bosnian to the Bundesliga. For a family man like Dzeko, the extended period away from home was at first difficult for this proud son of Sarajevo.
“That was hard for my mother,” he says. ”But we all had the dream, that I could get somewhere and be a professional. The whole family was positive that I would make it.”
If the nine goals he scored in his first 33 games for Wolfsburg barely hinted that he might become the next big thing in European football, then his light burnt down the bushel from there on in. From the beginning of the 2008/9 season until he departed for Manchester City, Dzeko scored 77 goals in 115 games. He has also scored 17 goals in 31 international games in the same period, giving him a strike rate that, Ronaldo and Messi aside, puts him in the top band of global strikers.
His manager for his last 18 games (11 goals) at Wolfsburg was, of course, ex-England coach Steve McLaren. “He is a goal scorer who gets them with his left foot, his right foot, his head; he can score all types of goals,“ he says. “He will be ideal for City. Strangely he reminds me of Alen Boksic, who I worked with at Middlesbrough, in the way he plays and scores.”
Though he suffered from injury throughout his career, Boksic was a very good striker, but it was another goalscorer of international repute - who also had a miserable time in England – that stole the heart of Dzeko when he was growing up; Andrei Shevchenko.
At his home in Sarajevo, Dzeko has Shevechenko’s number 7 shirt from his time at Milan and also managed to meet his hero. What tips the great Ukrainian passed on shall remain a secret between these two members of the strikers union, but Dzeko will never forget it.
“We talked for a while. It was great. I love his way of playing. He is a strong striker and he always finds the way to the goal.”
With Tevez often single-handedly dragging Manchester City out of the mire last season, the signing of Dzeko is about more than goals. As a focal point for the attack, his presence, whether in perpetual motion or as a static ‘wall’ to play around, will allow City to play with freedom and should give City’s talented a more readable target to aim at.
But whatever happens, the man who, as a boy played in an old bombed out sports hall, is living the dream and will refuse to get too carried away by it all and will continue to strive for perfection.
"It was always a dream of me to get in one of this big leagues. I knew that I have talent, I have made it within four years from the second Czech League to the Premier League," he says. "I think a lot about games and things that don't work. It is not easy to get all of the expectations together. But I am an optimistic person. The next game is always a new chance."
Click here for more Manchester City stories
Click here for more Football and Sport stories
Click here to follow Sabotage Times on Twitter
Click here to follow Sabotage Times on Facebook