He has scored more than 300 goals in his club career and has 64 in 127 for his country. He has finished as top scorer in Germany and Italy and won nine trophies, including every domestic prize available in England.
Despite that, Inter Milan striker Edin Dzeko is still somehow overlooked when the finest forwards of his generation are discussed. In an age of celebrity and self-publicity, perhaps Dzeko’s understated appearance and lack of swagger have counted against him.
Nevertheless, he remains a cult hero at Manchester City, where his stoppage-time equaliser against Queens Park Rangers on May 13, 2012 paved the way for perhaps the most famous Premier League goal of them all.
Sergio Aguero’s winner is remembered by everyone who saw it and plenty who didn’t. Martin Tyler’s ‘Agueroooooooooo’ commentary is iconic. Without Dzeko’s intervention minutes earlier, none of it would have been possible.
At 37, Dzeko might finally be about to earn the recognition he deserves. In Istanbul on Saturday, Dzeko will feature in his first Champions League Final – and it seems fitting that it should be against City.
‘I have to pay great compliments to him because he’s a very serious professional who trains very well every day with great intensity,’ said Inter chief executive Giuseppe Marotta.
Dzeko will have the chance to thwart the club he left for Roma in 2015 after becoming disheartened under Manuel Pellegrini. Pep Guardiola then rejected the chance to re-sign Dzeko in January 2021 despite a striker shortage, and Dzeko signed for Inter at the end of that season.
Guardiola does not get many calls wrong but he might live to regret that decision.
Dzeko joined City in January 2011, after scoring 29 times for Wolfsburg the previous campaign. The ‘Agueroooooo’ moment was the first of two league titles for Dzeko, who also won the FA Cup, the League Cup and the Community Shield before he moved to Roma.
Being a high-profile player in the Italian capital is a demanding gig and it takes a strong mind to succeed. Though Dzeko did not win a trophy there, he did finish as Serie A’s top scorer with 29 at the end of his first season as a permanent signing.
The passion for football in Rome is as intense as it is relentless, however. So it might have been a relief for Dzeko when Jose Mourinho arrived in summer 2021 and signed Tammy Abraham, allowing Dzeko to join Inter.
Though the Milanese follow the game with just as much interest as the Romans, the environment is altogether calmer. Football is a job, not a way of life.
Dzeko understands that better than most. He was nine when the Dayton Peace Agreement was signed in December 1995, bringing to an end the Bosnian War that had lasted three-and-a-half years. Estimates suggest about 100,000 people were killed during the conflict, and more than 2.2million displaced.
‘The only time I talk about the war is when I talk to foreign journalists,’ said Dzeko in an interview with The Guardian in 2017. ‘I never talk about the war with my family, with my wife, my parents, sister.
‘I do remember it very well but I don’t see the point. It’s something I left behind long ago. It was a terrible experience, it changed us all, no matter how old you were at the time.
‘But when it was finished we all tried to move on. During those three years everyone, even kids, dreamed to live a normal life, so after the war finished, we just did that.
‘However, when things are bad, when I am going through difficult times, I do think about everything my family and I went through.
‘Take football, for example; I hate to lose, I hate when I miss chances, but things like that must happen in football.
'Then you sit down, think about what was a really terrible thing in your life, times when you didn’t have anything to eat, drink or normal clothes to wear, you and everyone around you.
‘And you see that things are good now. It’s weird to use the word positive in this context, but if there is a positive from what we survived it is the fact that we are now aware that there is always worse in life. And we experienced worse first-hand.’
It would be glib to try to link Dzeko’s childhood memories with what he has achieved since, so it is better to stick to the facts.
He left family and friends in Bosnia for Czech club Teplice aged just 19, and has since prospered in four different countries.
Romelu Lukaku’s recent surge in form means he is pushing Dzeko hard for a starting place alongside Lautaro Martinez against City, yet like many managers before him, Simone Inzaghi knows he can rely on Dzeko.
If any career deserves to end with the greatest club prize in the European game, this is surely it.