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Dazzling Dzeko set to shine at Manchester City

Edin Dzeko
Dzeko has been captaining Wolfsburg, managed by Englishman Steve McClaren

By Sam Sheringham

Strange as it may sound, Manchester City may have the rescued Chilean miners to thank for their capture of Edin Dzeko.

The prolific Wolfsburg striker appeared certain to make a move to German giants Bayern Munich until their very own frontman Mario Gomez was awakened from his slumber by a symbolic message from another continent.

Without a goal since February, the superstitious Germany international was informed in October that one of the 33 miners winched to safety after 69 days trapped deep underground was also named Mario Gomez.

Inspired by what he later called "a sign of destiny", Gomez - who wears the number 33 shirt - duly scored a hat-trick in his team's 3-0 victory over Hanover 96.

Twenty goals later, Gomez has re-established himself as the main man at Bayern, leading the club to cool their interest in Dzeko and paving the way for City to prise the Bosnian from Wolfsburg on a four-year deal .

We were always having to hide when shots rang out or bombs fell. You could get shot at any time

Dzeko on his childhood

Dzeko, 24, may have been outshone by Gomez in the German scoring charts this season but there seems little doubt City are gaining a player of considerable talent as they step up their chase for a first league title since 1968.

"He's the total package," said Stoke goalkeeper Asmir Begovic, an international team-mate of the 6ft 3in forward, whose 26 league goals helped drive unheralded Wolfsburg to their first Bundesliga title in 2009.

"He's a great signing for Man City and he's definitely worth the money, especially with the market these days," Begovic told BBC Sport. "He's big, good in the air and he can finish with both feet.

"He's got a proven goal-scoring record in a very tough league in Germany. When he's on his game, he's as good as anybody."

While Dzeko's transfer fee, not disclosed but thought to be about £27m, and reported wages of £150,000 a week will no doubt raise eyebrows ahead of the introduction of Uefa's Financial Fair Play rules, City boss Roberto Mancini has long seen the Bosnian as a crucial addition in an area where the side have become over-reliant on one man.

Carlos Tevez has scored twice as many league goals this season (12) as City's four other strikers - Mario Balotelli, Roque Santa Cruz, Emmanuel Adebayor and Jo - put together.

Indeed, the Bosnian's aerial prowess could add another dimension to a side that had not scored a header all season until Joleon Lescott's goal against Aston Villa on 28 December.

"He's easily one of the top 10 strikers in the world," European scout Tor-Kristian Karlsen told BBC Sport.

"He can do a little bit of everything, and everything he does, he does very well. He is big and strong, which is ever so important these days, and he's great in the air, which I think is going to make the main difference for City.

"Jo, Santa Cruz and Adebayor are big men but they are not producing.

"Dzeko is also very good technically, which is not that common for a guy who is tall and good in the air. He can shoot and score with both feet, which is rare and gives you added options.

"Some people say he is slow but I don't necessarily agree. Like all tall players, he doesn't really have the acceleration you see in players who are shorter but once he gets into his stride he's very hard to knock off the ball. He's a good fit for the Premier League."

Dzeko's journey to the upper echelons of world football began with a traumatic childhood in war-torn Sarajevo.

DZEKO FACT FILE
Edin Dzeko
Age: 24
Place of birth: Sarajevo
2003-2005: Zeljeznicar (40 games, 5 goals)
2005-2007: Teplice (43, 16)
2007-2011: Wolfsburg (111, 66)
National team: Bosnia & Hercegovina (31,17)

When he was six, his family home was destroyed, forcing Dzeko and 15 other relatives to live together in his grandparents' small apartment.

"I was very afraid every day," Dzeko has said of his upbringing. "We were always having to hide when shots rang out or bombs fell. You could get shot at any time. I cried a lot in those days.

"A lot of footballers start by kicking a ball in the street. For me, that was impossible."

According to Begovic, who grew up in Germany and Canada after his family fled Bosnia during the war, Dzeko's upbringing has imbued him with a mental toughness which has helped him reach the top.

"I think having to go through a tough experience like that as a youngster, as many Bosnians have, has made him a much stronger person," said Begovic.

"He won't be fazed by a big move to a big team and the pressure doesn't worry him.

"He is very much a leader on the pitch. He has captained the national side a couple of times and is looked up to by the coaching staff."

After such a turbulent childhood, it is perhaps unsurprising that Dzeko made a stuttering start to his career.

He began life as a midfielder, but after two unimpressive seasons at Bosnian club Zeljeznicar he was sold to Czech side Teplice for £45,000.

Converted into a striker, his performances steadily improved and it was during a loan spell at Usti in the Czech second division that he began to show signs of the player he would go on to become.

Dzeko returned to Teplice for the 2006/07 season and scored 13 goals, making him the top scorer in the Czech top flight.

It was during this season that Karlsen - then working for Hanover - and a number of other leading scouts began to get wind of a potential new star in the making.

"I saw him pretty early in the season and there were already quite a few clubs looking at him," Karlsen recalled. "People compared him to Dimitar Berbatov and that was a selling point. His agent got clubs excited about him and invited them to watch him.

"As he started to really make his mark his price went up and it was left to a few clubs who would be prepared to take that risk."

606: DEBATE
city4me

That club was Wolfsburg, who were persuaded to part with four million euros on the basis of reports from their chief scout Uli Mohr.

"He had some good matches and some bad matches but you could see he had something special," said Mohr. "He was quick, big and was good with both feet.

"He had a great shot but in one-on-one situations, he was clinical. He made everything look easy."

At Wolfsburg, Dzeko linked up with coach Felix Magath, who Mohr credits with instilling a new focus into the player and ridding him of one of the scourges of the modern game.

"He had some problems in the Bundesliga because he was always diving," said Mohr. "He was falling at every contact with the opponent.

"Magath has encouraged him to be more aggressive. He stays on his feet, protects the ball and for me he has become a very good player.

"He has potential to become even better at Man City. He's a good age to make the next step and I think he will score lots of goals."

After a modest eight-goal return in his first season in the Bundesliga, Dzeko's career took off the following year when his near-telepathic understanding with Brazilian strike-partner Grafite drove Wolfsburg to a historic league title.

Between them, the duo netted 54 league goals, ousting Bayern legends Gerd Muller and Uli Hoeness as the highest-scoring partnership in Bundesliga history and firmly establishing the Wolfsburg strikers as two of the hottest properties in world football.

Dzeko, whose goals were all from open play, added 22 goals in the following season and has scored 10 times in 17 games this term, despite the team struggling in the bottom half of the table under former England boss Steve McClaren.

He has also made his mark on international football, scoring a rasping half-volley with his less-favoured right foot on his debut against Turkey in 2008 and finding the net nine times as Bosnia-Hercegovina narrowly missed out on qualification for the World Cup.

"He has been everything, the focal point of our team," added Begovic. "He's the face of our national team and a big player for us.

"It's not only his goals, his presence in and around the box gives other people opportunities to score."

Adebayor, Roque Santa Cruz and Jo could all be on their way out of Eastlands
Adebayor, Santa Cruz and Jo could all be on their way out of Eastlands

How soon Dzeko gets the chance to prove his pedigree is open to debate.

With Tevez very much the club's number one forward, and Balotelli starting to establish himself as a capable alternative, Dzeko may have to bide his time for an opportunity.

But when that chance comes, Karlsen expects Dzeko to seize it.

"He's never really been in the situation of having to fight for his place because he's been the main man at Wolfsburg," said Karlsen. "But I would assume that he would be very high up the pecking order.

"I think Tevez will be his main competitor, with Balotelli maybe playing in a wide area, unless Mancini finds a way to play the three of them together which is also a possibility.

"With his heading ability and power, I think Dzeko has some attributes which the others lack. I think Mancini rates him very highly and is extremely excited about signing him."

If all goes to plan and Dzeko helps end City's 42-year wait for the title, the tale of the Bosnian, the German striker and his Chilean namesake may just etch itself in the club's folklore.

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see also
Man City complete Dzeko signing
07 Jan 11 |  Man City
Man City move for striker Dzeko
29 Dec 10 |  Man City
Manchester City 1-0 Blackpool
01 Jan 11 |  Premier League
Tevez withdraws transfer request
20 Dec 10 |  Man City
Tevez the jewel in Man City's crown
09 Nov 10 |  Man City
Balotelli is homesick - Mancini
28 Dec 10 |  Man City
McClaren spared axe at Wolfsburg
23 Dec 10 |  Football


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