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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 20 June 2018

Roma's Edin Dzeko dodged a bullet by not joining Chelsea

Bosnian striker had talks with Premier League club about a January move, but given the English club's recent struggles, staying with Roma has been rewarded with a place in the Uefa Champions League semi-finals

Edin Dzeko scored in both legs against Barcelona as Roma advanced to the semi-finals of the Uefa Champions League. Catherine Ivill / Getty Images
Edin Dzeko scored in both legs against Barcelona as Roma advanced to the semi-finals of the Uefa Champions League. Catherine Ivill / Getty Images

As far as dodging bullets go, Edin Dzeko must feel like he outran an entire magazine's worth when he contrasts his fortunes with Chelsea's.

The Bosnian striker was a transfer target for the London club in the January window as Antonio Conte sought to bolster his attacking options as concerns over Chelsea's chances of a top-four finish mounted. First-choice Alvaro Morata was unfit and misfiring, while unfancied Michy Batshuayi was offloaded to Borussia Dortmund. Many were reportedly on the Italian's radar, ranging from bizarre - Peter Crouch - to sensible - Dzeko.

The Bosnian striker's qualities - aerial prowess, strength, hold up play and the one commodity that supersedes all of the above - goals - were, along with an intimate knowledge of what it takes to succeed in the Premier League having won the title twice while at Manchester City, identified as key attributes to help the English champions get their season back on track.

The transfer never materialised, despite negotiations taking place with Dzeko's employers, Roma. And while Dzeko told Bosnian news outlet Klix he was happy to remain in the Eternal City, his goal conversion - 12 in all competitions before the turn of the year - slowed markedly, suggesting that the talks might have, at the very least, unsettled him.

Fast forward to April and the decision to remain in the Italian capital rather than move to the English one looks a wise one. Roma sit fourth in Serie A, level on points with city rivals Lazio, while Chelsea trail fourth-placed Tottenham Hotspur by 10 points with six games remaining. Their chances of qualifying for next season's Uefa Champions League nestle somewhere between slim and none.

And while Roma's league position by no means offers them any guarantees of qualifying for next season's tournament, they are, unlike Chelsea, still in this season's competition, in the semi-finals no less, having done what no other team had previously done and overturned a three-goal deficit to Barcelona.

The instigator of the fightback was Dzeko. Trailing 4-1 from the first leg, Dzeko scored Roma's first goal at Stadio Olimpico, won the penalty which Daniele de Rossi converted, having been hauled to the floor by Gerard Pique, and, in tandem with Patrik Schick, terrorised a defence devoid of ideas of how to contain the bustling Bosnian.

"I have never seen Barcelona struggle so much. We pressed them throughout the game from the first minute," Dzeko said.

It was also Dzeko who had struck Roma's crucial away goal at the Camp Nou last week that meant Kostas Manolas's late header was enough to send Roma through to the last four.

A change of tactics by Roma manager Eusebio di Francesco, partnering Schick alongside Dzeko in attack with Radja Nainggolan, who missed the first leg with injury, behind them was a masterstroke. Dzeko is at his devastating best in a partnership, as City fans will attest to, remembering fondly his double act with Sergio Aguero.

"We put three goals past them and we could have scored more," Dzeko added.

Having failed to prise Dzeko away from Roma, Chelsea eventually settled on Olivier Giroud from Arsenal. And while it would be unfair to equate the team's current plight purely down to the Frenchman, Dzeko's goal against Barca on Tuesday - his 21st of the season - and all-round performance only go to highlight the kind of elite-level striker the club may struggle to attract if they finish outside of the top four.

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