The Bosnian hitman went from zero to hero with the best season of his career in a remarkably prolific Serie A landscape, writes Giancarlo Rinaldi.
There may never be another season like this in Serie A for strikers. Half a dozen different men finished with more than 20 goals in the supposedly most defensive and boring league in the world. The race for the top-scorer’s title was more closely fought than the fight for the Scudetto but, in the end, one man stood just above the rest - Edin Dzeko.
It felt a bit like everything finally fell into place for Roma’s Bosnian hitman. He had often promised a season of such prolific proportions over his 31 years, but somehow always seemed to be found wanting. But, as the unquestioned leader of a potent Giallorossi attack, he delivered an unforgettable campaign. To finish ahead of the pack the way he did was quite some achievement.
The numbers of this campaign alone are simply staggering. The 29 league goals would be impressive enough on their own, but add in another eight in the Europa League (joint top scorer in the tournament), a couple in the Coppa Italia and four for his country and that takes him to 43 overall. He has surely never had quite such a year and may never have one like it again.
For when you look back at his history, this was a most amazing revival in form. It was eight years ago in the Bundesliga when he last came anywhere close to this total and, after he moved to Manchester City, the goals really seemed to dry up. Even last season in Rome, there was truly no indication that this kind of explosion was in store.
And yet, if you look beyond the stats, maybe this amazing goal-rush was more about finally delivering what he was truly capable of. There were quite a few games in years gone by when he spurned many more chances than he took, cutting a forlorn figure. This year, for a golden period, it felt like everything he touched ended up in the back of the net.
The thing is, he always hinted at the ability to produce such a magical season. His stature makes him more than a handful for defenders, yet he remains remarkably nimble and can score goals in just about every fashion imaginable. With Roma striking 90 goals in Serie A under Luciano Spalletti - outdone only by Napoli - it created the perfect storm for his skill-set.
With the pace of Mohamed Salah, the drive of Radja Nainggolan and Kevin Strootman and the guile of Diego Perotti, this is a side which can undo your defence with an endless variety of options. Dzeko was the ideal outlet at the end of this kind of creative force - and also provided a fair few assists of his own. Rare were the games where he did not provide some sort of key contribution.
It will be interesting to see, with his age and a change of Coach, whether he can scale these heights once more. But, one thing is for sure, a lot of people who doubted him had to stay pretty quiet this year.