Edin Dzeko: From supersub at Manchester City to talisman for Roma and Bosnia
Striker Dzeko will captain Bosnia against Northern Ireland, live on Sky Sports Football on Monday
By Peter Smith with Augusto De Bartolo
Last Updated: 15/10/18 11:53am
After playing second fiddle to Sergio Aguero at Manchester City, Edin Dzeko is now revelling in his role as the main man for Roma and Bosnia.
The striker was a key part of the City title-winning squads of 2011/12 and 2013/14 but, despite scoring 72 times for the club during his four-and-a-half seasons in Manchester, he was most often used as an impact substitute rather than first-choice forward by bosses Roberto Mancini and Manuel Pellegrini.
Across his four full campaigns, Dzeko averaged just 16 Premier League starts per season, regularly watching on from the sidelines as Aguero led the line.
There were standout contributions along the way, of course - it was Dzeko who drew City level before Aguero's title-clinching strike against QPR in 2012, while his double at Old Trafford in March 2014 was a key moment in City's pursuit of the league crown that year.
But Dzeko, who rejected the 'supersub' tag, wanted more responsibility. And he has found it at AS Roma.
After a tricky transition season, an electric start to 2016/17 saw Dzeko thrive in his new-found talisman status. There were 17 goals in the first 20 games of the season across all competitions and he ended up with 39 in total, passing a record jointly held by Francesco Totti.
The legendary Italian's retirement and Mohamed Salah's sale to Liverpool in the summer of 2017 placed more weight on the Bosnian's shoulders but he embraced the challenge, scoring in both legs of the Champions League quarter-final win over Barcelona and semi-final defeat to Salah's Liverpool during another impressive year.
Before the second leg of that Champions League loss to Liverpool, boss Eusebio Di Francesco had said he hoped Dzeko could be Roma's Salah, after the former Giallorossi ace had starred in the 5-2 win at Anfield. "A player of his quality, ability - it's right that he has this responsibility," said Di Francesco of Dzeko.
While the striker wasn't quite able to pull off a miraculous comeback - although Roma came close with a 4-2 win on home soil - Di Francesco has continued to show faith in his main forward this season, despite a slow start. He was rewarded with an emphatic Champions League hat-trick and a fourth goal in four days before the international break.
A player of his quality, ability - it's right that he has this responsibility.
Roma manager Eusebio Di Francesco
"Dzeko is one of the most important players that Roma have in their squad," says Sky Italia's Augusto De Bartolo. "Since he was bought from Manchester City he has become a point of reference for the various coaches Roma have had on the bench in these years.
"After the retirement of Totti his responsibilities have grown because of his international experience and his ability to score goals - and if you look at the stats you can understand why.
"With Manchester City he scored 72 goals in 178 matches, while at Roma he has 78 goals in 148 matches - an average of more than one goal every two games. So you can understand the importance he gained in the team in these years."
Dzeko's form at Roma has attracted other clubs, with Real Madrid and Chelsea both reported to have been interested in signing him in January 2018. However, they could only offer a supporting role - and Dzeko is happy being the main man in the Italian capital.
"I think a key point about his improved leadership on the team was when the transfer to Chelsea didn't happen last January," says De Bartolo. "From that moment he has understood his importance for the club and most of all for Di Francesco."
Dzeko also has a mentoring role at Roma, where at the age of 32 he is seen as an example for the younger players at the club, while, beyond his goals, he also offers the team work-rate and creativity.
"For the manager his presence is important in two other ways, apart from the goals," explains De Bartolo. "First of all, because of his international experience and his skills, he is essential for the growth of the young players of the team. If you think of Patrik Schick, Justin Kluivert or Cengiz Under, he can be an example to follow for them.
"On the other hand, tactically speaking, he is the player that, as well as finishing the team's moves, can also make assists and who, with his movement outside the box, allow the wingers to attack the free space behind him."
A favourite with the fans at Roma and central to the team's style of play, Dzeko has found the role he craved at Manchester City with the Serie A giants.
He'll be back in national team colours on Monday night against Northern Ireland and with over 50 goals for his country to his name and with the captain's band around his arm, Dzeko's team-mates will be looking to him for inspiration as they look to maintain their 100 per cent start to the competition.
It's the kind of responsibility Dzeko has come to relish.
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