Edin Dzeko

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Q&A: Edin Dzeko on Roma, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Champions League

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PST spoke to a quartet of AS Roma players this week as the club contends the 2017 International Champions Cup in the United States with the aim of a profile piece on i Lupi captain Daniele De Rossi’s quest for an elusive scudetto.

That piece came out well, but the conversations with some of his teammates were just as fun. While Kevin Strootman’s resilience and Hector Moreno’s Mexican ambassador status neatly fit into individual posts, our talk with ex-Man City striker and reigning Capocannoniere winner Edin Dzeko works better in Q&A form.

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Plenty has changed since Dzeko scored in Man City’s wild title-clinching finish against QPR. Dzeko talked about his surprising and explosive 29-goal Serie A season, his interest in a UEFA Champions League return to the Etihad Stadium, and a love for representing his home nation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Enjoy.

PST: Obviously we know your quality from having scored 25-plus goals three times in seasons at Wolfsburg and Manchester City, but what was it like going from 10 goals to 39 in your second season at Roma?

Edin Dzeko: “It was definitely one of the best in my career. When you get up in your years you are supposed to go down, but actually I’ve gone up. I felt good and from the beginning of preseason I trained hard and it was an important season after getting to know the qualities of the teams and players in the league after my first season in Italy. Last year was big proof of it and like it always is, it was harder than it looked.”

PST: You’ve won the Bundesliga and the Premier League, the latter twice. Last season you shaved Juventus’ table advantage to four points. Can this be the year?

Dzeko: “I have hope that I can do the same in Italy. It’s definitely not easy with Juventus having it the last few years and not selling, only buying new players. Last season was really good for us. We were very close but we still dropped some easy points against the small teams and that cost us at the end. Next year we play Champions League. We changed coaches and a few players left and others came so we have to gather up to the new style of the coach and the new players have to learn what it is to play in Italy. Hopefully this season can be better than last, but we have to go step-by-step.”

(Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

PST: Wolfsburg had never won, and Man City hadn’t in 40-plus years. Can those experiences help in pushing Roma to its first scudetto since 2001?

Dzeko: “Hopefully. Also when I went to City and we won the first and second title, the team was probably was one of the best in England where it’s also not so easy to win the title. I have another three years contract in Rome and this town and these fans deserve a title. It’s such a shame, every year without a title for this club.”

PST: What would it mean?

Dzeko: “It would mean everything. Hopefully we will manage to do this in the next few years, but it would mean everything to them. I’d habe a lot of good feelings if Roma would manage to win the title. It would be amazing for all the players. They will love us and never forget. The people in Rome, they live for football. They live for us.”

PST: Hector Moreno mentioned that hunger in training was evident in just the few days he’s been there.

Dzeko: “You have to be hungry for good things because it’s a new young team, a new coach, and the team is step-by-step building itself in new directions. We lost four, five players from last seasons so it’s never easy to bring seven, eight new players and immediately work it out. So this preseason is important.”

(Photo by Marco Rosi/Getty Images)

PST: You’re Bosnia and Herzegovina’s all-time leading scorer, and you seem to relish international breaks and pulling on the shirt. 

Dzeko: “I’m proud of myself for what I’ve achieved because I remember when I was young and I was looking to the players, my idols, who were playing with Bosnia and Herzegovina. It’s something special, we can take it to heart and I’m proud that I can be the idol of some young boys in Bosnia that can still believe they can do some good things and positive stuff in the future. When someone from our small country goes out and plays in a league like Italy, it gives the confidence for the rest of the young people that they can know that everything is possible.”

PST: You’re also pretty active in causes around Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Dzeko: “It’s important for me because it’s my country, it’s the country that gave me everything, where I grew up for 18 years before I left for Czech Republic first and then Germany, England, Italy. I want to help the people who need help because I have the possibility to do it. I will always be there for them and I’m also the UNICEF ambassador that makes me even more proud because I love kids.”

PST: Finally, Roma is in a different pot than Manchester City for this year’s UEFA Champions League. Would you like to be drawn with your old team, or prefer the clubs stay separate?

Dzeko: “I would love it, to be fair. I would love to go back there and even against City I bring so many good memories from the beautiful days and my connection with the fans and club. I would definitely look forward to it.”

De Rossi’s fire burning toward elusive scudetto

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When Mexican star Hector Moreno arrived at AS Roma this month, he brought a hyper-competitive drive and the desire to inspire his new club toward a long-desired scudetto.

What he found was a club that top-to-bottom was already driving toward that same goal.

“I’ve been here two days and the guys have the same hunger and desire as me,” Moreno told ProSoccerTalk.

To those who’ve played for AS Roma, bled the crimson in and out for i Lupi, the pursuit of a first scudetto in a decade and a half dances through their heads.

“Totti told us that when he won the scudetto in 2001, there were parties for three months. We all have the ambition to win something here, and to celebrate with the fans,” said Kevin Strootman.

[ MORE ROMA: PST talks with Strootman ]

“It would be amazing for all the players. They will love us and never forget. The people in Rome, they live for football. They live for us,” said star striker Edin Dzeko, the ex-Man City forward who potted 29 goals last season.

Juventus has won the last six Serie A titles, but Roma has steadily narrowed the gap in finishing second three of the past four seasons. Roma finished four points back of Juve last season, and my did they entertain, scoring 90 goals en route to second.

Strootman has been in Rome since 2013, Dzeko since 2015, and we’ve already covered Moreno’s nascent period with the club.

So imagine the scudetto fire that burns within captain Daniele De Rossi, who turned 34 on Monday and made his Roma debut the year after the club’s last scudetto. He’s made 561 appearances since that October night in Belgium against Anderlecht in the UEFA Champions League when he made his first senior appearance.

His teammates will know what it means to him.

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“It’s my biggest target,” De Rossi told PST. “It’s what I’m following with my career. I know the other guys know what that means for the people here in Rome and I would like to explain it a little bit deeply what it can mean to win a scudetto right here in Roma. It’s part of our job to know what can happen if we win, and to our culture it can be something that we never forget.”

AS Roma played Paris Saint-Germain level through 90 minutes in Detroit, its first International Champions Cup appearance of the summer. Now i Lupi prepares for another UEFA Champions League opponent in Tottenham Hotspur, up next Tuesday at Red Bull Arena.

Clubs have had to be nearly flawless to make a run at Juve in recent seasons, and looking at Roma’s schedule doesn’t mean finding a load of could’ves and should’ves; Yes there was an early draw at Empoli and a regrettable home defeat in the Derby della Capitale, but Roma wasn’t tossing aside points in poor situations.

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So even with a bunch of new faces and several key departures, De Rossi and Roma need to come out of the gates with vigor. And the captain admits he sees the fire mentioned by Moreno, but cautions that it needs to be carefully built by i Lupi’s leadership.

“It’s clearly very early but you can see that there’s a group, with a lot of people who are 27, 28, 24, who are not so much young players and that’s important because at 27 you already know almost everything you need to be a professional player,” De Rossi said.

“Hunger is something that comes probably later when the matches are more important, but also during training you can find it, and when people spend time with the team when they are free. The atmosphere is very good for now. I hope it will follow later.”

De Rossi’s words carry weight even in a short conversation. He doesn’t throw away words, and takes his time to convey the proper meaning.

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Asked about leadership and whether he considers his guidance more by words or his example, De Rossi doesn’t turn to platitudes or fire and brimstone. The latter might be expected, given his demeanor and — to an American audience — memory as the man who used his elbow to examine what lies underneath Brian McBride’s face at the 2006 World Cup (and, it should be noted, helped the Yanks to their only point of the tournament, later won by the Italians).

“It’s something you have inside, your character, but also something you build during your career and your life,” De Rossi said. “It’s not something you have to show every second in soccer or a work place. You have to be nice with your teammates, you have to be available if they need something, and that’s it. If you have to raise your voice, you do it, but it’s nothing special. The same things the other guys do.”

Sure, but the *other guys* don’t sit in the Top 5 for caps in the celebrated Italy national team set-up. They haven’t all won World Cups, or been knighted, or been named Serie A Footballer of the Year.

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So what are De Rossi’s leadership guideposts? Sorry to disappoint, but there’s no magic to it.

“First of all, inside the pitch you are respected by your teammates,” he said. “Also outside the pitch, you know that your job is going good when you see things going in the right way, the normal way, nothing weird, nothing special, nothing perfect, the right way! Normal people who love their work and love their job will respect each other.”

Okay, fair enough. De Rossi is no doubt respected, but as he edges further into his career, does he think about how he’ll be remembered? Scudetto or not, what’s his legacy?

Easy, it seems; De Rossi wants to be known as a custodian of his club, even if he’s already one of its all-time centurions.

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“As a professional player, a nice guy, but most of all a player crazy in love with his team,” De Rossi said. “And also as a good player, because I think I am. Nothing more. What happened to Francesco (Totti) is something unbelievable and unrepeatable. I’m happy. I will be happy if a lot of people remember me as a nice guy, as a huge person who loves Roma as much as he can.

Well, he’ll be happy then, as a classic Wolf in yellow and red: a man who was born in the Eternal City and grew to become a symbol of it.

“There’s something inside of us, Roman citizens. Rome is a city full of stories, full of history, full of old things. There are monuments, what you can read in books, but also people connected to art like Ennio Morricone or Sergio Leone. It’s a mix of new things that we have to do, and also remain connected with our past history. It’s something you have to remember, not forget, and can affect our way to lead and live outside of soccer and the way I play.”

And given his legendary status, it’s little surprise that De Rossi has the admiration of the players in the room, social media fans or not.

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“He’s our captain,” Strootman said. “He was already the captain when I came here four years ago and he was one of the only players who spoke English. He helped me with a lot of things on and off the pitch. He’s a role model for everybody. It’s a pleasure to train with him, stay with him, and be on the pitch with him.”

Strootman agreed with De Rossi that the side has to be nurtured into the season.

“We still need some time, that’s normal, but we need to show on the pitch that we are hungry,” he said. “It’s a good mix. We have to show it from the first competition and game by game.”

Roma’s ICC finishes up at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough on July 30, where they’ll hope to make an early statement of intent against serial scudetto winners Juventus.

Serie A roundup: Dzeko brace cuts Juve’s lead on Roma to 5 points

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MILAN (AP) Edin Dzeko continued his astonishing season with a double to help Roma beat Empoli 2-0 in Serie A on Saturday.

The goals took Dzeko’s tally to 33 for the season in all competitions. He is the league leading scorer with 23, one more than Torino’s Andrea Belotti.

Dzeko is just three off his best tally of 26 league goals for Wolfsburg in the 2008-09 season. There are eight Serie A matches remaining.

It is all a far cry from last season, when Dzeko managed just eight goals in 31 appearances in his first Serie A campaign.

Roma will hope he can deliver again when they play city rival Lazio in the second leg of their Italian Cup semifinal on Tuesday.

“We had an average match,” Dzeko said. “Maybe our minds were on the derby a bit but we did our bit and we got the three points.

“The cup match is such an important test. It will be difficult to overturn the 2-0 deficit, but we are a strong team.”

Dzeko scored his first early when Antonio Rudiger flicked on Leandro Paredes’ corner and it went in off Dzeko’s knee.

The Bosnia and Herzegovina forward doubled his tally in the second half. Mohamed Salah nodded down Diego Perotti’s cross and Dzeko swept it past Empoli goalkeeper Lukasz Skorupski, who is on loan from Roma.

Salah almost got on the scoresheet in the 70th but his header came off the crossbar.

Roma moved to five points behind league leader Juventus, which visits third-placed Napoli on Sunday.

A late own goal boosted Lazio’s hopes of sneaking into the Champions League at the start of an important eight days for the capital side.

Lazio moved to three points behind third-placed Napoli. The two meet in Rome next Sunday, five days after Lazio plays Roma in the second leg of their Italian Cup semifinal.

“It’s a very important victory for us, against a strong team and in a difficult stadium,” Lazio coach Simone Inzaghi said. “We won deservedly, because we believed in it more.

“Will I support Juventus in tomorrow’s match? I don’t really look at other teams because two days after we have the derby which will be very difficult. Then from Wednesday we’ll think about Napoli.”

It looked as if the match was heading for a draw before Keita Balde Diao crossed to fellow substitute Cristiano Lombardi, who was unmarked at the back post. He rolled the ball across the area and it ricocheted in off Francesco Acerbi and goalkeeper Andrea Consigli six minutes from time.

Lorenzo Pellegrini almost leveled in the final minute but hit the crossbar.

Sassuolo hadn’t won since February but took a surprise lead in the 26th when Domenico Berardi was tripped by Thomas Strakosha, and he sent the resulting penalty straight down the middle for his first goal since August.

Gregoire Defrel almost doubled Sassuolo’s lead immediately but sent his effort just wide of the left upright.

Lazio leveled three minutes from the break when Ciro Immobile beat the offside trap to run onto Felipe Anderson‘s through ball and fire across into the bottom right corner.

Lazio could have taken the lead on the stroke of halftime but Paolo Cannavaro hooked Immobile’s effort off the goal-line.

Serie A roundup: Juventus stays 10 points clear, Roma comes back

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Juventus began a new league winning streak as they rode an early Juan Cuadrado goal to a 1-0 road win over Sampdoria, maintaining the 10 point league lead.

Cuadrado scored just seven minutes in at Stadio Luigi Ferraris, heading in Kwadwo Asamoah’s left-flank cross. They would defend strong the rest of the way, as Sampdoria out-shot Juventus 10-9, but they offered little in front of net. Juventus could have had a second had Gonzalo Higuain not inadvertently blocked a sure goal for Mario Mandzukic on the line.

The Italian giants drew on March 5th against Udinese, halting a seven-match winning streak, but now with successive wins over AC Milan and Sampdoria, the streak begins anew. The victory came at a heavy price, however, as Paulo Dybala was forced off with a leg injury in the 28th minute. This is an equally big loss for Argentina, who called Dybala up for the coming

With the comfortable lead at the top, Juventus just has to ward off Napoli. They did just that, despite Napoli’s exciting 3-2 win over Empoli. They built an early 3-0 lead on two from Lorenzo Insigne bracketing one from Dries Mertens, but Empoli put up a fight. Omar El Kaddouri scored in the 70th minute to give the hosts a lifeline, and Massimo Maccarone hit in the 84th minute to make it a game. Napoli would see the game off, to keep Mertens from rueing his missed penalty in the 7th minute.

Roma found itself down trailing Sassuolo in the opening 10 minutes, but would come from behind to earn a 3-1 win and all three points. Leandro Paredes evened it up in the 16th minute, and Mohamed Salah put Roma in front before the break. Edin Dzeko hit past the hour mark to complete the scoreline and keep Roma in third and within one point of Napoli.

Elsewhere, Lazio was held to a 0-0 draw on the road at Cagliari, harming their chances of catching the top 3. Lazio could only get four of its 14 shots on target, and they fell five points back of Roma, and now sit just two points ahead of fifth-placed Inter and sixth-placed Atalanta, both on 55 points.

Atalanta moved themselves into that advantageous position with a 3-0 win over bottom-feeders Pescara. Alejandro Gomez and Alberto Grassi scored on each end of halftime, and Gomez earned a third in stoppage time to finish things off. Fiorentina won at Crotone 1-0 thanks to a late 90th minute winner from Nikola Kalanic, but they still trail AC Milan by five points for seventh place.

Roma keep Serie A title race going with 4-0 thrashing of Fiorentina

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ROME (AP) Edin Dezko is going from strength to strength in his second season in Italian football, scoring twice as Roma beat Fiorentina 4-0 in Serie A on Tuesday.

Dzeko moved top of the goalscoring charts on 17 goals, more than double the amount he scored in a miserable first season with Roma.

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It was the first time Dzeko has netted at least 17 league goals in a season since he scored 22 for Wolfsburg in 2009-10.

Federico Fazio and Radja Nainggolan scored the other goals as Roma moved back two points above Napoli into second spot, four points behind leader Juventus.

Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
 Juventus 22 18 0 4 45 16 29 12-0-0 6-0-4 54
 Roma 23 16 2 5 48 21 27 11-0-0 5-2-5 50
 Napoli 23 14 6 3 55 26 29 8-3-1 6-3-2 48
 Lazio 23 13 4 6 41 27 14 8-1-3 5-3-3 43
 Inter Milan 23 13 3 7 37 24 13 8-2-1 5-1-6 42
 Atalanta 23 13 3 7 36 25 11 8-0-3 5-3-4 42
 Fiorentina 23 10 7 6 38 33 5 5-6-0 5-1-6 37
 AC Milan 22 11 4 7 32 27 5 7-2-3 4-2-4 37

Fazio also proved crucial at the other end, with a goalline clearance to deny Federico Chiesa in the 14th minute.

That was Fiorentina’s only real scoring chance as Roma began to take control.

Roma had several opportunities and should have taken the lead in the 29th when Nainggolan found an unmarked Bruno Peres with a delightful chipped pass, but the Brazilian defender incredibly fired over in one of the misses of the season.

The capital side did take the lead 10 minutes later following a brilliant Daniele De Rossi ball over the top which Dzeko controlled on his chest before turning and driving into the bottom left corner.

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It was the first time Dzeko has scored in five successive matches since 2009.

De Rossi also set up Roma’s second, shortly before the hour, with a free kick which Fazio headed in for his first Serie A goal.

Roma extended its lead in the 75th with a wonderful team move. From a counterattack, Dzeko found De Rossi, who passed to Kevin Strootman on the left flank. The Netherlands international took one touch, looked up and picked out Nainggolan, who controlled the ball and calmly finished it off.

Dzeko doubled his tally seven minutes from time, snatching the ball off Fiorentina defender Davide Astori and firing past Ciprian Tatarusanu.