x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Dzeko finds his range at Wolfsburg

When faced with the ravages of war on their front steps, many Bosnian families choose to flee, becoming refugees.

Wolfsburg's Edin Dzeko, above right battling with Energie Cottbus' Cagdas Atan, has had an impressive season in the Bundesliga and has helped put his side top of the table.
Wolfsburg's Edin Dzeko, above right battling with Energie Cottbus' Cagdas Atan, has had an impressive season in the Bundesliga and has helped put his side top of the table.

When faced with the ravages of war on their front steps, many Bosnian families choose to flee, becoming refugees. Others learned to live with the bombs, the air raid sirens, the neighbours who disappeared from one day to the next. Edin Dzeko's parents were among the latter. And while they learned to live with war, they never quite learned to live with fear.

"I was scared every day," Dzeko recalls. "And even though feeling fear felt normal, I never quite got used to it." Perhaps that's why, at the first opportunity, Dzeko left. Even though the war was over, its legacy was everywhere. And so, shortly after his nineteenth birthday, he took up the offer from FK Teplice, a club he had never heard of, simply because they offered a way out. Zeljeznicar, the side he had played from the age of nine, received some US$90,000 (Dh330,000) in exchange.

Teplice loaned him out to a second division club called Usti nad Labem, where, by all accounts he was homesick. Back home, he had been a lanky attacking midfielder, here he was expected to sit up front, while burly defenders pumped balls to his head. The ordeal lasted six months and he was back at Teplice, still something of an enigma to the coaching staff. They appreciated his technical ability and how rare it was to see such a gifted player with such a tall, athletic build.

And yet Dzeko seemed to still be discovering his body and its potential. As one former coach put it: "He looked like a small man trapped in a big body." Nevertheless, in his second season at Teplice, he netted13 goals, doing enough to impress Wolfsburg, who signed him for around $3.5m. Felix Magath, his new manager, knew he had something special on his hands. He also knew Dzeko was still somewhat fragile, physically and emotionally, which is why he was brought along slowly.

But, after a season as a part-timer, Dzeko stepped into the limelight this year, teaming up with the Brazilian Grafite to form one of the most devastating striker partnerships in Europe. He is Europe's top goalscorer in qualifying for the 2010 World Cup and, if you add the goals he has scored for Bosnia to those he notched for Wolfsburg, his season tally stands at 38, all of them from open play. Dzeko and Grafite complement each other wonderfully. The rapier and the battering ram, the gazelle and the raging bull, the marksman and the bombardier.

Certainly, for a man his size - 6ft 2in - Dzeko moves with rare grace, balance and co-ordinaton. He's the protoype of a new breed of striker, which may explain why Arsenal and AC Milan have been monitoring him for some time now. And if he succeeds in the improbable - leading Wolfsburg to the Bundesliga title - his stock will only go higher. The German pacesetters can take a giant step closer to the title with a win at Stuttgart this afternoon.

@Email:gmarcotti@thenational.ae