Il Messaggero (Alessandro Angeloni, Stefano Carina, Massimo Caputi and Ugo Trani) People have said that, as a person, he’s a different class and someone who is culturally above average. After spending about an hour with him at Trigoria, we can confirm that’s true: Edin Dzeko is a different class, and culturally above average. A man of substance, not just playing the act. He’s philosophical. He’s simple, sincere, serene. Cheerful. He also smiles when he talks about his mistakes and the insults directed at him. He’s slightly surprised when he sits down to see multiple cameras and four open notebooks in front of him. “How many of you are there?” he exclaims, as if to ask why there is so much attention being given to him. “This isn’t an interview, it’s a forum,” Edin jokes. It soon becomes a – very simple – conversation, which Dzeko uses to tell his story. “If you have any problems, just speak in English,” we suggest to him. But he chooses not to: he always speaks in Italian, however he can, even when he inevitably finds a hole in his vocabulary and struggles to find the right words. Edin stops, thinks, finds the right word (and if he doesn’t find it, he invents one) and carries on, just like he does after he misses a chance in front of goal. Mistakes, (pot)holes, we’re used to everything in Rome. “Rome is a wonderful city, especially for someone who has lived in places like Manchester and Wolfsburg. Of course, it can be difficult to drive around – the streets are like Sarajevo’s after the bombing. You can see that it’s a city in difficulty, in crisis. It needs investment, the streets can’t be left abandoned like this.”
Are you able to walk around Rome?
It isn’t easy. I’ve often thought about going into the city centre all covered up so people don’t recognise me. With a hat and sunglasses on. I remember the times I came to Rome when I played for Manchester City: no one bothered me then, I could wander around in peace. It’s not like that any more, the only time I’ve been able to take a short walk along the via Condotti with my partner was on the Monday after my goal against Juventus. I’d only just arrived then, that was my first game. Of course, Rome is Rome. When I was in Manchester, it rained all the time and if we were still there with our daughter, it would be difficult to go out. But here we can go outside every day, it’s a better lifestyle for her as she grows up. As Spalletti says, “You live well in Rome”. That’s very true.
How difficult is the atmosphere in Rome though?
In general, more difficult than others.
Is there too much criticism?
In England there was less pressure, if you don’t play well then it’s normal for people to criticise you. But criticism is part of the game, I accept that. Rome is similar to Bosnia: people don’t criticise you, they insult you. I’m used to that. They do it at home, you’re fine three times but if you miss a fourth time then they start insulting you again. It’s as if they’re waiting for the right time to strike.
So do you think that people can be too nasty here?
I can only talk about what I’ve experienced, but I often think that if you play well all game but miss one chance, all anyone talks about is that missed chance. Only that. Last year it even ended up influencing Spalletti, because he stopped playing me.
Is there one miss that you still think about?
I try to avoid thinking about mistakes I’ve made in front of goal. But I can’t explain what happened against Palermo.
It was the defining moment of last season: it typified how I was playing, what I was like in front of goal. It wasn’t me that struck that ball, it wasn’t my foot. I really can’t explain it, I’ve never done anything similar to that before. I’ve missed chances before, but never like that. That game I scored twice and set up another two, but no one talked about that. My miss was all anyone remembered.
What about the goal you’re proudest of?
The one against Juventus, my first one. It’s always important to get off the mark quickly when you sign for a new club. I live to score goals. Goals are my life, I hope to score many more and to keep improving my performances.
Is it true that Silvano Martina, Buffon’s agent and a great friend of your father’s, suggested that you go to Juventus?
Silvano is dear to me and I often talk to him about many things. It’s true, I had the chance of signing for the Bianconeri. But, in the end, I’m here and I’m happy with the choice I made.
Let’s go back to what happened after that goal against Juve: why did the season go so badly for you?
Last year I didn’t have a pre-season, I made it clear I wanted to leave City so I didn’t play in any of their friendlies. After two or three months in Rome, my fitness levels started to drop. I wasn’t in anywhere near as good physical condition as I am now.
Did you think about leaving?
Yes, that happens when you don’t play. But then I decided to stay, and I was increasingly convinced I made the right choice, even when we played Chievo in the last home game of the season. I didn’t play that day, but I told myself: I’m not leaving this place. It was my choice, no one asked me to stay. It was a challenge I had to win myself. I went on holiday, I took a break from everything, and I started again.
You don’t have a first year but then put in some great performances in your second season. Is it always like that for you?
It’s true, I don’t know why, but it’s always been the case.
Has everything really changed for you since Spalletti replaced Garcia?
They’re different. Before I came here, lots of players told me that players train a lot in Italy. I joked about it with Mancini, who warned me that I needed to prepare myself to run. Jovetic said the same thing to me. Then I came to Rome, but Garcia’s methods weren’t what I had been warned about at all. It was partly our fault, lots of us were tired, some players had injuries and even Rudi didn’t want to do much in training. At that point it became difficult to play well for 90 minutes. After 70 minutes we were all tired. He needed to be a bit tougher on us, like Spalletti is. He needed to stop people from taking things too easy. This is a great team that should be winning all the time, but if you don’t prepare well then you won’t achieve anything. That’s why I like Spalletti: he’s tough and always wants everyone to be giving their all, whether it’s a competitive match or just in training.
Did you like him even when he said you were weak?
Yes, that’s normal. He always wants more from me and from the entire team. We’re both players and men, we live through our emotions. So I’d like to hear a few compliments from him every so often as well. To hear that I’ve done well. But I’ve got nothing against Spalletti. I always want to be doing better. His comments spur me on.
What are Spalletti’s strengths and weaknesses?
He has great personality, a coach needs to make it clear to his players that he’s in charge. He has that characteristic, like Magath did at Wolfsburg. Spalletti is someone who always wants to win, and that’s a good thing for Roma. It’s not easy in Rome: if you win three games then you’ve won the scudetto, if you lose one then it’s a crisis. You can’t have that attitude. Spalletti has a great eye for detail – he wants everyone to be perfect, even in training. He really pushes hard on that – he always tells us that if we want to win then we have to work hard.
So he doesn’t have any weaknesses?
We aren’t walking about weaknesses… I don’t know what they are.
What is Serie A like compared to the other leagues you’ve played in?
The Premier League is the best. I’ve learned a lot in a year and a half in Italy, possibly more than I did in eight years playing in Germany and England. It’s different in Italy, it’s more demanding. Maybe I should have played here first and then gone to England – that would only have been good for me.
So it’s a league that allows you to grow?
Yes, which is partly down to its coaches – Spalletti is perhaps one of the best I’ve ever had. I still thought that even when I wasn’t playing. That’s why i think that if I’d been coached by him and played in Italy before I’d gone to England, then maybe I’d have done better in the Premier League.
Because it’s more concerned with tactics and technique?
Tactics is the most important thing, and even a centre forward can take things from this because you learn how you should move.
On that topic, do you really think you aren’t a prima punta?
That’s right. I’m not a forward who sits and waits in the penalty area. I like starting from a deeper position, playing with and for the team. I like making assists. When I was young I played as a right winger, my idol was Shevchenko. I went crazy when he scored that hat-trick against Barcelona at the Camp Nou.
So your idol wasn’t van Basten, as people say in Bosnia?
Some people compared me to him, but for me – at the start – there was only Sheva.
You received offers from China – why did you turn them down?
I think you only have one career. I don’t feel old yet, I want to keep playing a lot and keep playing at a high level. That’s more important to me than everything else, including money. I’ve earned a lot of money already and I’m happy with what I have. I decided to stay here because I want to win things with Roma. After football? I’ve not thought about it, because I intend to play football for a long time yet.
As a Muslim, what do you make of the current climate where Islamic terrorism is terrorising not just our city but the world?
We aren’t all the same. This is a situation that you can’t talk about in generic terms.
Would you be happy if Roma signed another forward? There has been a lot of talk about needing a back-up centre forward.
I’ll only say this – I like playing. But, every so often, a rest does me good.