Manchester City FC's new €32m signing Edin Džeko has come a long way since his first games of football aged six in the shadows of FK Željezničar's Grbavica Stadium in Sarajevo, just two tram stops from his Svrakino Selo home.
Born on 17 March 1986, Džeko was 12 when spotted by his first coach Jusuf Šehović. By 1998, the Grbavica had been largely destroyed after finding itself on the front line during the Balkan conflict, and that left the youngster with few open spaces to play in. Džeko nonetheless stood out, not least due to his prodigious height, and although some suggested he pursue a career in basketball, the lure of football proved too strong.
"The start wasn't easy and my peers mostly looked to other sports," said Džeko following his goalscoring debut for Bosnia and Herzegovina against Turkey on 2 June 2007. "As a young boy I was very determined and that is one of my most important characteristics."
Having risen through the Željezničar ranks, he made his senior debut under Amar Osim aged 17. Although he helped the youth team win the Bosnia and Herzegovina Cup with a hat-trick against FK Modriča, Džeko never realised his potential at the club. Still only 19, and after 40 games and five goals, he was sold in 2005 to Czech side FK Teplice for a €50,000 fee that delighted the Sarajevo outfit.
Džeko did not make an initial impact but proved his worth during an impressive six-month loan spell with second-tier FK Ústí nad Labem that led to his recall by Teplice. Soon Džeko was thriving, and 13 goals in 2006/07 made him the Czech league's top scorer. Voted the foreign player of the year, the forward was sold for €4m to VfL Wolfsburg.
Linking up with new senior international team-mate Zvjezdan Misimović, Džeko became a crucial part of the Wolfsburg side that stormed up the Bundesliga table and clinched the championship crown in 2008/09. The following season, Džeko topped the Bundesliga scoring charts with 22 goals, and when he struck his 59th for Wolfsburg in August 2010 he became the club's all-time record marksman in the league. It had taken him just 96 matches, and he also lies a mere five strikes short of Elvir Bolić's record of 22 for Bosnia and Herzegovina.
That is the form which persuaded City to take him to England, making him the most expensive player in his nation's history in the process, but Džeko is more than just a goalscorer. Named a UNICEF ambassador in November 2008, he gives up much spare time to that cause, spending a recent week off playing in humanitarian tournaments in Cazin, Split and Zenica.
Voted Bosnian player of the year in both 2009 and 2010, Džeko has grabbed plenty of headlines in his homeland since his transfer, with many pundits having preferred a move to Spain or Italy. Despite those doubts, national coach Safet Sušić is optimistic about the switch: "For Edin Džeko, it's best to continue his career in England because he can easily adjust to their playing style. His goalscoring abilities will be easily spotted and that'll be a great encouragement for all our players in EURO 2012 qualifying."
Former Bosnia and Herzegovina defender Muhamed Konjić, who played in England for Coventry City FC and Derby County FC, agrees. "Maybe Arsenal, Liverpool or Chelsea would have been more suitable for him, but Manchester City were faster and had more money to get him," he commented. "I wish him good luck and I'm convinced he will repay the trust Manchester City showed in him."
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