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City target Dzeko's war torn path
Published : 20 Dec 2010 09:55:18
| Submit Comments| Comments (49)| Printable Version1/1Play SlideshowClose MapEdin Dzeko in action against Hoffenheim at the weekendSome players are tipped for greatness from a young age ? but Edin Dzeko certainly wasn?t one of them. The 24-year-old Wolfsburg striker is on Manchester City?s wanted list as they try to sort out Carlos Tevez?s long-term future. Even if Tevez stays, Blues manager Roberto Mancini is keen to bolster his forward line with Roque Santa Cruz on his way next month and Emmanuel Adebayor also in line for a move. And the revelation that Dzeko has written to City stating he is willing to move to Eastlands has only strengthened their hand. The Bosnian star won?t come cheap ? his German club want upwards of £34million for a player who has gained a reputation as one of Europe?s most dangerous forwards. He proved his goalscoring ability again on Saturday, scoring a last-gasp equaliser from close range in a 2-2 draw at home to Hoffenheim in the Bundesliga. Doubts But there was a time when a football career looked as if it would elude him. Even the club that gave him his break in his native Sarajevo had doubts that he would make it as a professional. When Dzeko arrived at Zeljeznicar as a lanky 13-year-old in 1999, he was given the dismissive nickname ?Kloc?, derived from the Bosnian slang term for a lamp post. Six years later, having broken into the first team and spent a couple of unexceptional seasons patrolling the midfield in the Bosnian Premier League, Dzeko was sold to Czech club Teplice. The fee was just £45,000. Even so, as one Zeljeznicar director later said: ?We thought we had won the lottery.? But Dzeko, it turned out, was a late developer. Converted into a striker, his goal tally rose ? and so did his value. A loan spell at Czech Second Division club Usti nad Labem helped boost his confidence. And when he returned to Teplice, he bagged 13 goals in the 2006/07 season to become the Czech league?s leading scorer. Felix Magath, Wolfsburg?s then-coach, was sufficiently impressed to sign the striker for around £3.4million. It?s easy to speculate on why the talent of Dzeko, who was 21 by the time he moved to Germany, took a while to blossom. But the circumstances in which he grew up certainly didn?t help him. He was raised in Sarajevo at a time when the Bosnian capital was under a four-year siege from Serbian troops during the break up of Yugoslavia. When Bosnia-Herzegovina declared independence from Yugoslavia, 18,000 Serbs encircled the city in a bid to take control of part of the state. An estimated 10,000 people were killed or went missing during those four years, around 1,500 of them children. Dzeko?s family home was destroyed in the battle, which made Sarajevo too dangerous for youngsters wanting to practise their football skills. ?I was six when the war started,? Dzeko later recalled. ?It was terrible. My house was destroyed, so we went to live with my grandparents. ?The whole family was there, maybe 15 people all staying in an apartment of about 35 square metres. ?It was very hard. We were stressed every day in case somebody we knew died. There wasn?t much to eat ? not really enough for three meals a day. ?I was very afraid every day. 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, but when the war finished, I was much stronger mentally.? Dzeko?s upbringing has undoubtedly helped him in his role as an ambassador for UNICEF. The striker has visited many schools in his homeland, speaking to Bosnian children who have their own traumatic stories to tell. When you?ve lived through a war, the fripperies of football must seem insignificant by comparison. Even so, Dzeko?s mental strength undoubtedly kept his career going at that early stage when so many questioned his ability. It also enabled him to cope with the spotlight as Europe?s leading clubs began to take an interest. Dzeko?s elevation to the list of world-class strikers came during the 2008/09 season, when his prolific partnership with Brazilian forward Grafite propelled Wolfsburg to their first-ever Bundesliga title. Between them, the pair scored 54 league goals ? 26 to Dzeko, 28 to Grafite ? making them the best partnership in Bundesliga history, beating the legendary Bayern Munich pairing of Gerd Muller and Uli Hoeness, who had struck 53 times between them in 1971/72.