x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Edin Dzeko completes Manchester City attack

Former teammates of the Bosnian striker believe Manchester City have purchased Europe's finest centre-forward.

Edin Dzeko is described by many as the complete centre-forward. Matthias Kern / Getty Images
Edin Dzeko is described by many as the complete centre-forward. Matthias Kern / Getty Images

Edin Dzeko showed a decent grasp of English when he gave his first press conference as a Manchester City footballer on Tuesday.

He also provided some of the standard riffs that still accompany any superstar into Eastlands, emphasising City's high status, talking of their "exciting project" and made a studied reference to the old, and sometimes disputed idea, that City are somehow a club more rooted in their own locale than their more famous neighbours, Manchester United.

"I understand City have more supporters in Manchester," he said.

Dzeko's arrival at a heavyweight football club has seemed inevitable for at least the past two years.

The fee which City agreed to pay Wolfsburg, some €35 million (Dh154m), is the highest ever received by a Bundesliga team for a transfer.

Even this month, once it was known that Wolfsburg would sell Dzeko in the winter transfer window, a competing interest from Juventus had been persistent. Real Madrid and AC Milan in the past have coveted Dzeko, as have Bayern Munich.

What they all saw in the 24-year-old was a striker well suited to modern football, a physically powerful goalscorer whose ability stood out even in "underdog" sides.

For Wolfsburg, who have struggled for the past six months to create goals, he has still managed 10 in 17 German top-flight games this term. Add the 48 he contributed to Wolfsburg's last two campaigns, and you have close to a guaranteed 20-plus-goals-a-season man.

Now put into the equation the 31 assists he also supplied in that time, and he is clearly more than just a strong target man, a six-yard-box predator.

The effectiveness is also reflected in his international record. Thanks to Dzeko's 17 goals in 31 matches, Bosnia-Herzegovina - not generally a free-scoring side- have reached unprecedented heights.

Last November they narrowly missed out on qualifying for their first major, senior finals, losing to Portugal in the play-offs for the 2010 World Cup.

The word most often used to describe Dzeko the centre-forward is "complete". It was offered by Jerome Boateng, the City defender most familiar with Dzeko's work, having played - while Boateng was with Hamburg - in the same Bundesliga as Dzeko until last summer.

"He's good with his head, his right foot and left foot," Boateng said.

Dzeko's 22 goals last term made him the Bundesliga's highest scorer. His 26 in Wolfsburg's title-winning 2008/09 campaign had put him just behind his colleague, Grafite, in that list.

For all the verve that players such as Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben have given - when fit - to Bayern in recent years, Dzeko still emerged as the German league's most devastating forward.

He was allowed to develop thanks to the strong hunches of a couple of scouts. First, it was Jiri Plesik, at the Czech club Teplice. Plesik spotted the 6ft-tall teenager playing for Zeljenicar of Sarajevo and offered €80,000. Zeljenicar directors were apparently pleasantly surprised by the sum.

Dzeko had been a midfielder for much of his time there and had been thought too awkward and gangly to make it as a high-class striker, though they admired his industry.

Dzeko, like many Bosnians of his generation, has had to work hard for his success.

He was born in Sarajevo and grew up to the sounds and anxieties of the Balkan conflict. His family home would be destroyed during the war, meaning that he, his parents, brothers, sisters and cousins spent long periods crammed into his grandparents' house.

After two good years with Teplice, Felix Magath, the then Wolfsburg head coach, got an urgent tip from his assistant Bernd Hollerbach.

"I've found a jewel," he reported. "We've got to sign him now." Wolfsburg paid €4m to Teplice in 2007.

Dzeko made an quick impression. "He had a great will to win," recalls the tall, muscular Grafite, with whom the Bosnian would share a productive partnership.

"We worked well together because we understood each other. He'll do the same with Carlos Tevez or Mario Balotelli at City, even though they are very different players from me."

Mario Mandzukic, the Croatian midfielder who became one of Dzeko's closest friends at Wolfsburg, said: "For me, he's the best striker in Europe. He'll score lots of goals in England, for sure."

And Mandzukic believes Dzeko will also prove a popular figure in the City dressing room. "I will miss him," he said. "When I came to Wolfsburg, because we spoke the same language, he looked after me and we spent a lot of time together off the pitch. He's a good guy."

Those are qualities that encouraged Steve McClaren, the former England manager who took over as Wolfsburg coach last summer, to make Dzeko the club captain.

"He has a strong and positive personality," Diego Benaglio, the Wolfsburg goalkeeper, said. "I hope he'll be happy at Manchester City. He wanted to move on, to find a new challenge, and I'm sure he'll succeed there."