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Old Trafford test for VfL's history boys

Their paths to the top were far from smooth but, as they prepare for VfL Wolfsburg's trip to Old trafford this week, Edin Džeko and Grafite are now the most prolific strikeforce in Bundesliga history.

Grafite (left) and Edin Džeko celebrate yet another goal
Grafite (left) and Edin Džeko celebrate yet another goal ©Getty Images

It reads like a barely credible film plot. One boy grows up in war-torn Bosnia-Herzegovina, the other had his first job going door to door selling bin bags. Together they form the most prolific striker partnership the Bundesliga has ever seen and on Wednesday they will attempt to do down Manchester United FC at Old Trafford.

'Difficult years'
The first of the pair is Edin Džeko, who in his native Sarajevo was once stopped from playing football by his mother – and hours later a grenade exploded on the pitch where he would have gone, wounding his friends. "Those were very difficult years for everyone in our country, I was only six when it started and we always had to hide when there were shootings and bombs falling," the 23-year-old recalls. But in 2005 he moved to Czech club FK Teplice and, after being voted the league's best foreign player in 2006/07, joined VfL Wolfsburg.

Grafite odyssey
There he linked up with Grafite. Now 30, the Brazilian has made his name as a forward but was a goalkeeper in his youth and was 22 before turning professional with Associação Ferroviária de Esportes. After an odyssey that took him to four other Brazilian clubs, as well as a spell in South Korea, he joined Le Mans UC in 2006 switching to Wolfsburg 12 months later.

In his first season combined with Džeko, Grafite scored eleven goals and his partner eight. Last term they really got going, the Brazilian claiming 28 goals and Džeko 26, breaking the combined Bundesliga record of 53 set by Gerd Müller and Karl-Heinz Rummenigge for FC Bayern München in 1971/72, as Wolfsburg claimed their first title. Grafite also marked Wolfsburg's UEFA Champions League debut a fortnight ago with a hat-trick in the 3-1 defeat of PFC CSKA Moskva.

Their own understanding is crucial. Džeko mused: "Grafa has incredible strength, if he goes up against a defender one-on-one, then it's 'bye-bye defender'. He has a lot of experience and you can learn from the things he does." Grafite added his own take on their successful partnership: "Džeko and I complement each other. Džeko doesn't only score goals but he also creates and put his colleagues in a position to score."

Misimović influence
Both players also point out the importance of Džeko's international colleague Zvjezdan Misimović, who joined from 1. FC Nürnberg last summer and provided more than 20 assists over the season. "Misimović has a great input and as a No10 he's the player responsible for creative play so it's him who gives me the majority of the passes after Džeko," said Grafite, Džeko adding: "We have a very good No10 behind us, 'Zwetschge' (Plum) Misimović, and he can play some very good passes and this is very important for a striker."

'United group'
They suggest one other factor – team spirit. "It's a very united group," said Grafite, beginning a third season at a club for the first time in his professional career. Džeko, meanwhile, is relishing another United. "It's every player's dream to play at Old Trafford against Manchester United. We're really looking forward to it."