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Edin Dzeko says he always dreamed of returning to Manchester City's stadium and waited for the draw against them in the Champions League - but it never happened. He holds no grudges against his ex, certainly not the fans in blue who have always given him a lot of warmth and love. He would have loved to wave to them again from the grass he left in 2015 when he realized his professional future would be in jeopardy if he got stuck on the bench.
His final season at Manchester City was horribly weak, with just six goals in all competitions and 11 league appearances. The move to Italy was obvious. The Bosnian striker was at peace with him then, and he is at peace with him today. He continues to follow Manchester City's matches and rejoices in the joy of the fans as they collect title after title. However, deep down, there is also a tart taste of missing out.
The Holland effect was not there. Dzeko in a City uniform (Photo: GettyImages)
Because it could have been different. Dzeko was a rising superstar when he won the sensational championship with Wolfsburg in 2009. His collaboration with Brazilian Graffita was amazing and remarkable - an almost telepathic understanding between two very different scorers who complemented each other close to perfection. They dismantled the Bundesliga with unprecedented balance sheets. A combined 54 goals were an all-time high - 28 for Graffita, 26 for Dzeko. Since the Bosnian was much younger, the attention was mainly focused on him. Here you have a tremendous athlete with high personal technique and a high percentage of opportunities. He fits in the Premier League like a glove, doesn't he?
He also showed this on his first visit to England. As fate would have it, Dzeko's first away game in the Champions League was at Old Trafford, and he bombed Wolves' advantageous goal against Manchester United. The Red Devils came back and won 1-2, but that was less relevant to the script. The Bosnian also made no secret of his desire to leave Wolfsburg because his ambition was great. While his first priority was AC Milan, his favorite team because of his idol Andrei Shevchenko, the Premier League attracted him no less. When he finally arrived there in January 2011, after rather tedious negotiations, for £27 million, then the second-highest sum in Manchester City's history, there was an expectation that he would become a particularly dominant striker. If you like, it can be compared in retrospect to Erling Haaland. A very physical scorer from a not very fashionable team, who comes with an impressive scoring record in Germany and is ready to conquer the kingdom.
The Holland effect wasn't there, of course, but Dzeko also never got a chance to function like Holland. Instead of being Sergio Aguero's partner as with Graffita, he was thrown into a fight with the Argentine prodigy for a place in the line-up, which was a very difficult fight to win given Cone's stability and reputation. Add Carlos Tevez and Mario Balotelli, and you have the initial answer to why the Bosnian has never been a bunker in the lineup. And even after scoring a hat-trick for Tottenham in London in August 2011, he didn't know if Roberto Mancini would find him a place in the next round. If Mario Balotelli revealed the caption Why Always Me? On the shirt when he starred with a pair in the 1-6 derby at Old Trafford, Dzeko could have written Why Always Them? After coming on in place of the Italian in the closing minutes and adding a pair of his own.
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The English remember him as a bench player who didn't deliver (Photo: Getty Images)
He had 14 goals that season - the Blues' first championship season in the era of the Emirates Sheikhs, which is also his first full season with the club. The last of these was scored in injury time in the final round against Queens Park Rangers when the team was 2-1 behind. "My goal was no less important than Aguero's," Dzeko always declared, mentioning this especially ahead of Saturday's final, but very few spoke of him except him. Aguerooo The Argentine was the ultimate winner, and Balotelli who cooked the goal for him was also mentioned. Dzeko? The media tended to treat him as a slightly clumsy bench player who was signed for too much money and didn't really deliver.
Dzeko himself really hasn't always been steady, and the fact that he scored just three goals in 2 games for Manchester City in the Champions League over four seasons speaks for itself – especially since two of those goals were scored against Viktoria Plzen. In the Premier League, his balance was much better, especially when calculating goals and assists per minutes played, but pundits were generally careful to emphasize the negative angle. He never conceptually surpassed the status of a rotation player, and had no real chance of contending for the debut against Aguero.
Dzeko's second Championship season in 3/28 was Dzeko's best in Manchester, with 2013 league goals in 14 games, although even then he was in the shadows, especially Yaya Toure who provided spectacular displays at the height of his career. After that, the Bosnian found himself in an ongoing dispute with coach Manuel Pellegrini over lack of appreciation, and the club was preparing anyway for Pep Guardiola's future arrival - that was the goal, the Chilean was supposed to warm the chair until the Catalan prodigy finally agreed to reach his destination. Since Pep was not interested in Dzeko's strikers, Manchester City had no reason to promote him, and the parting occurred a year before Guardiola actually landed.
It could be the perfect closure for Dzeko (Photo: Reuters)
It wasn't done in particularly jarring tones, but the striker was eager to get Manchester City in the draw - not only to get a standing ovation from the fans, but also to prove himself. It can't be called revenge in the full sense of the word, but it's not far from it. The motivation in such cases is enormous, and history knows quite a few cases where exes especially enjoyed hitting their former teams.
Guardiola, for example, vividly remembers meeting Samuel Eto'o in the Champions League semi-final in 2010. The coach tried to oust the Cameroonian from Barcelona at the start of the term, eventually leaving him for a season that turned out to be magical with winning the treble, but sent him to Inter anyway as part of the payment for Zlatan Ibrahimovic. It was a fundamental blow to the striker's dignity, and he did his utmost to show Pep and Barca where the fish pees from, even if Jose Mourinho used him in both encounters against the Catalans as a right-winger. He was not happy when the sensation was completed - and he went on to hoist the trophy in the final at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Dzeko has waited a very long time for this opportunity, and he gets it surprisingly in the final - his first (and probably last) at the age of 37. He did his part on the way there, including a brilliant goal in the semi-final for AC Milan, the team he has always loved. And now he's coming to Istanbul, to the stadium where Shevchenko's role model scored that huge buffer against Jerzy Dudek 18 years ago, and then missed his penalty in a duel. It would be perfect closure in more ways than one if he beat his ex, wouldn't it?
- World Football
- UEFA Champions League
- Edin Dzeko
- Manchester City