On an overcast, cold afternoon in January 2011 some 5,000 Manchester City fans in the Jimmy Sirrel stand at Meadow Lane watched their side labour against a resolute Notts County team on a quagmire of a pitch. Early in the second half County’s dominance was rewarded when Neil Bishop headed home at the near post from a corner. Roberto Mancini sought reinforcements and David Silva quickly replaced the hapless Jo (never has a player looked so out of place than he did at Meadow Lane).
Still City struggled and - a Gareth Barry volley aside – they did not look like getting back into the game. But with 10 minutes to go Micah Richards burst down the line and fired a ball across the six-yard line which was gleefully smashed into the net by Edin Dzeko.
It was a goal that would change City’s season as they went on to thrash County 5-0 in the replay on the way to winning their first trophy since 1976.
Dzeko had arrived at Eastlands two weeks earlier for £27m (a Bundesliga record at the time) having made his name at Wolfsburg. There he had helped end Bayern’s domestic dominance in 2008/09 with 26 goals and a player of the year award. Despite Wolfsburg struggling the following season he still managed to score 22 league goals and had 10 in the 2010/11 campaign before he moved to England.
Dzeko’s goal scoring exploits, not to mention his height, were seen as key factors in Roberto Mancini’s decision to buy him in the January window. City were sitting second in the Premier League and progressed to the knockout stages of the Europa League and Mancini thought Dzeko could offer an extra attacking option to Jo, Carlos Tevez and Mario Balotelli.
However, like many January signings, Dzeko took a while to settle. With Tevez and Yaya Toure in stunning form, it took him until late April to score his first league goal for the club in a 1-0 away win at Blackburn Rovers. It would get better for the Bosnian.
At the time of writing Edin Dzeko is leading the race to win European football’s ‘Golden Shoe’ award. Now 31, the Bosnian is enjoying the best form of his career at Roma. He already has over 30 goals (20 in Serie A) and if he continues to score he will join the list of greats including Messi, Ronaldo, Henry, Van Basten, Gerd Muller and of course, Kevin Phillips.
Ask any Roma fan and they will tell you that after a shaky start to life in Serie A, they now know they picked up an absolute bargain when they signed him from City following a season-long loan for a total of €15m – roughly £11m.
Given recent transfer fees for forwards in Europe’s top leagues (Martial to United for a reported £58m if rumours are to be believed) it shows that if you are willing to take a chance there are still bargains out there.
Dzeko’s time at City is viewed by most fans as a mixed bag. Many bemoaned his (perceived) lack of movement, not to mention his (lack of a) first touch. But to single this out does the Bosnian a great disservice. While his goals to games record wasn’t poor (50 in 130 appearances), it didn’t match the fee or expectations City fans had when he signed. But what Dzeko brought to City should not be belittled. Roberto Mancini and Manuel Pellegrini demanded a style of football that was far from playing to Dzeko’s strengths. Both preferred their teams to play a style where patient passing led to little one - two’s and sharp turns on the edge of the penalty area. No surprise then that Aguero and Tevez fared better than their 6”4 team-mate. Watch any of Dzeko’s goals for Wolfsburg and it was clear to see that Dzeko thrives with a more direct approach to goal.
While City never played to Dzeko’s strengths, the Bosnian did not moan, trying his best to adapt to the style his manager demanded rather than vice versa. And yet still he found the net regularly. Where would City be without that second goal against QPR before Aguero’s legendary winner? There was also the Bosnian’s love of a derby match, particularly at Old Trafford (three goals in two games at United) that should endear him to the City faithful.
Fast forward two seasons and City – locked in the latter stages of a title race with Liverpool - were a goal down at Everton following a Ross Barkley stunner. Aguero quickly levelled it up but then limped off injured. The Bosnian decided it was time to make his mark. In the 43rd minute James Milner, under pressure near the corner flag, whipped a hopeful (and very un-City like) cross into the box. Dzeko’s eyes lit up. His inch perfect header, despite the cross having no power, was so accurate it gave Tim Howard no chance. City were in front.
Not done for the day, Dzeko added a third for City just after half time and City won 2-3.
The week before, Dzeko had led the City fans packed into the away end at Selhurst Park in celebration, when Steven Gerrard’s infamous slip was broadcast on the big screen as the players warmed up. His winning goal that followed would steer City to the title - a day City fans still sing about.
To secure the title City needed to win their remaining two home games against Villa and West Ham. With Aguero injured, Dzeko took it upon himself to lead the charge bagging twice in the 4-0 win against Villa before a comfortable 2-0 win against the Hammers secured City their second league title in three seasons.
Nobody complained too much when Dzeko was loaned to Roma the following season as City whimpered to a fourth place finish. However, having seen Wilfried Bony arrive for the same money and watched their team come to rely all too heavily on Sergio Aguero perhaps those fans that never saw Dzeko as a real City hero may just hold him higher regard in hindsight.