Underrated and under-credited: An ode to Roma’s Edin Dzeko
There’s every chance that once Edin Dzeko retires, he never really gets the credit he actually deserves. The Bosnian well and truly belongs to one batch of strikers whose names have been somehow overshadowed by the likes of Luis Suarez, Karim Benzema or Robert Lewandowski even though when he’s been a potent goalscorer for many years now. He’s had a massive influence in multiple clubs but has never been given credit for it. For each club he has played for, most bookmakers have had him as their favourite to be top-scorer including the latest mobile site from 888-sport this time around.
The strangest one, perhaps, comes from eight years ago in 2012. Just about every football fan knows how Manchester City clinched their first-ever Premier League title by snatching it from United in probably the last second. The famous Sergio Aguero goal has been etched in everyone’s memories as a marker for one of the best title-clinchers in history.
Be it down to the marketing it got through Martin Tyler’s impressive commentary or anything else, it has taken all the attention away from Dzeko’s goal that came minutes before. It had helped Roberto Mancini’s men make it 2-2 and like the Aguero goal, it had come in stoppage time. Very few seem to properly recall it and that is the very definition of his Dzeko’s career.
Take this season as an example too. The Bosnian has been Roma’s chief goal-getter as always. Dzeko boasts of an impressive goals per 90 minutes tally of 0.51, while scoring 12 times in 25 appearances for the giallorossi under Paulo Fonseca. His goal contribution per 90 minutes tally stands at 0.68 as he has also bagged four assists in the season.
Despite having a very healthy output, the attention has largely been on the likes of Ciro Immobile, Lautaro Martinez, Cristiano Ronaldo and the mercurial Josip Ilicic, Dzeko has got none of it. A lot of it could be down to how impressive the others have been or how Roma fell out of the top four recently. But Dzeko’s goal contributions per 90 minutes tally has always been an impressive one since his Wolfsburg days.
Markedly, it has always stood above 0.50 goals plus assists per 90 minutes. He has even gone past the tally of 1.0 on three occasions. The most remarkable one came in the 2008-09 season with Wolfsburg, when he had taken the club to the Bundesliga title by scoring 26 goals and racking up six assists. While the legendary Grafite had been the highest scorer that season, Dzeko had scored only two goals less in second.
At Manchester City, Dzeko turned out to be a very reliable back-up to regulars to Dzeko and sometimes even Alvaro Negredo under Manuel Pellegrini. In the 2011-12 season itself rather, he had an impressive return of 1.07 goal contributions per 90 minutes. Despite playing only 1509 minutes of football, he got goals on a regular basis and became Mancini’s go-to guy for goals.
Even in the next two seasons, that rate was always above 0.50 even when he was far from a regular many times. His initial loan and the further permanent move to the Stadio Olimpico came when the giallorossi were constantly finishing around Juventus in the Scudetto race. They were seen as the next challengers under Rudi Garcia until the transitions came under Luciano Spalletti and Eusebio di Francesco.
In Spalletti’s first full season in his second stint as Roma boss, Dzeko was colossal. He led the title-charge from the front, helping Roma go neck and neck with Maurizio Sarri’s Napoli. He scored 29 goals that season, also picking up nine assists. His goal contributions per 90 minutes tally stood at a highly impressive 1.12.
Another game which could define Dzeko’s career would be Roma’s impossible comeback triumph over Barcelona in the 2017-18 season. Kostas Manolas’ goal was sold as the obvious winner and was gilded by Peter Drury’s excellent piece of commentary. But perhaps, very few know how good Dzeko was in that game. He even got a goal, as he consistently worked the backline which had Gerard Pique in it.
Last season was his worst in terms of goalscoring. A lot of it can be down to the chaotic season Roma had. There were boardroom conflicts, as Monchi left and Di Francesco left. Claudio Ranieri came in and nearly got the club to a Champions League spot. But Dzeko contributed to 15 goals in 33 games, leading from the front once again.
This season has been a campaign full of injuries for Fonseca’s men. In the early part of the campaign, the club had just about every attacking option including Dzeko injured. Nikola Kalinic was out and the vital Lorenzo Pellegrini was out too. Dzeko had endured a double cheekbone fracture and somehow found himself on the bench against Sampdoria.
After Kalinic went off injured, Dzeko came on despite not being able to see well and having screws in his cheek. In the next game against Milan, he scored one and created one to hand Roma a vital win. But hardly anyone paid much attention to this fighter instinct either.
Maybe, this is how he was meant to be. It is how his career was meant to pan out despite him being a consistent and reliable goalscorer at the global stage for over a decade. Not many have done that by scoring at a stable rate, despite the catching up of age. But if not for Dzeko, some great footballing moments might never have come alive. And that is a fact.