Edin Dzeko steps out of Romelu Lukaku shadow with match-winning cameo

Max Cooper
Dzeko is proving his worth at Inter
Dzeko is proving his worth at Inter / Alessandro Sabattini/Getty Images

It's not easy to take up the mantle of a fan favourite, particularly when that crowd pleaser landed his club their first league title in over a decade.

The adjective 'underwhelming' is probably the best word to use when describing the emotions of Inter supporters, who were forced to wave goodbye to superstar striker Romelu Lukaku in his prime, only to see 35-year-old veteran Edin Dzeko arrive on a free transfer.

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The fact that AS Roma supporters were not too disheartened to see the Bosnian leave (in terms of his impact on the pitch, rather than the sentimental attachment) was also a cause for concern for those in Milano.

Dzeko had three 'good' seasons in six years in the Italian capital, but he failed to hit double figures in the other three league campaigns, posting the worst statistics of his Roma career in the final year at Stadio Olimpico.

So, the hype was not exactly swirling around San Siro when they replaced 24-goal title winner Lukaku with seven-goal pensioner Dzeko, in what appeared to be a significant downgrade and major dent to their scudetto-defence hopes.

Remarkably (or not) however, Dzeko has continued doing what he has done for the majority of his career - proving doubters wrong. After only seven games in the league, he is only one goal behind his total for the entirety of last season - registering stats not seen since the great Ronaldo graced San Siro.

Six goals in seven matches tell the tale of a striker who has adapted seamlessly to his new surroundings, and has hit the ground running in a manner no one thought possible - except Dzeko himself, of course.

“I expected to start strong, because I know my qualities and that is why Inter signed me. I always give my maximum, whether I start or come off the bench,” Dzeko told Sky Sport Italia.

Confident - and rightly so. He proved pivotal once again for Inter on Saturday evening, coming off the bench on 58 minutes and turning a loss into a victory in the space of 32 minutes.

Inter looked completely lost in the opening hour against Sassuolo, and seemed destined to be heading for a damaging defeat. But Dzeko transformed their fortunes immediately after coming on, and scoring with his first touch of the ball.

The Bosnian made a great run to the far post, reading the flight and pace of Ivan Perisic's cross excellently to outwit his marker and plant a stooping header beyond Andrea Consigli. Like the seasoned professional he is, Dzeko grabbed the ball and sprinted back to the centre circle.

No time for celebrations, no making a statement about being a sub - this is about the team.

20 minutes later, he was at it again. Dzeko's experience and awareness put him on a different level to the centre-backs desperately trying to contain him, and he beat them to the punch on 78 minutes, anticipating the defence-splitting pass and getting on the wrong side of his marker.

Dzeko's movement also caught Consigli by surprise, and the goalkeeper soon found himself in no man's land and in a whole world of trouble. The forward banked on contact arriving, nicked the ball first and hit the deck.

Penalty. Lautaro Martinez stepped up to take the plaudits, but it was all down to Dzeko. Being the team player he is, the former Roma star used his brilliant cameo as a chance to teach a lesson to those around him, who perhaps grumble a little louder when left out of the team.

“We came on to make the difference, because that’s what the coach asks of us and we have many talented players who can’t all be on the pitch at the same time.

“When you come on, you must give more than 100 per cent, that’s what we did and it paid off in the end.”

Samir Handanovic, Edin Dzeko
Decisive / Alessandro Sabattini/Getty Images

Dzeko's signing may not have been glamorous, expensive or anything near what the Nerazzurri would have wanted, but you cannot doubt the guy. He is a consistent goalscorer, and given the service, he will be as effective as any other striker in the division.

Time to embrace him, Inter fans. Dzeko is the man.