Travis Knoppert compares the quality and the recent revival of Dzeko and Kolarov with their cheap transfer fees.
After only making 22 appearances and scoring just four goals by the end of the 2015 Premier League campaign, the consensus on Edin Dzeko was out: he was past his peak. That summer, he was sold to Roma for less than £10 million. Less than six months ago, the mention of Alexsandar Kolarov’s name was surrounded by a number of similar remarks whereby all concluded he was a “finished player”. This past summer, he moved to Roma for less than £5 million.
Just last week, Roma played Chelsea at the Bridge to a 3-3 thriller in one of the more thrilling matches of the season so far, and the two former City players that were once written off for good each put in performances that can’t be described as anything shy of sensational. Mind you, this match was not a one-off, but rather the culmination of a revival that each player has experienced since their arrivals at Roma, and the revival of said players goes to prove that in the digitalized world of football today, it is all too frequent that fans can completely disregard a player’s entire game and ability on an often unfair basis.
Dzeko and Kolarov both had long careers at Manchester City, Dzeko’s having lasted five seasons and Kolarov’s even longer with a total of seven seasons. Each of their careers with City had a number of highs and lows at different points, but both ended with the conclusion that neither player had much to offer anymore. For different reasons, that might’ve been true from City’s point of view. Dzeko struggled to get into the side as much during his last season with the Citizens, and Kolarov looked far past his prime and incapable of adjusting to the centre-half role in Pep’s new system so late in his career. However, there’s a long list of clubs and managers kicking themselves for not picking up Dzeko and Kolarov at the bargain prices which they were available for considering the resurgence each has experienced since their respective moves to Rome.
Let’s start with Dzeko. After an underwhelming 2014/2015 campaign, where he struggled to find gametime and form, the future looked uncertain as he was moving into the latter stages of his career. After that season, Roma decided to take the Bosnian striker on loan with an option to buy at the end of the season. Though getting much more game-time the following season following his move to the Giallorossi, Dzeko only managed eight league goals in his thirty-one appearances. Regardless, the Italian side decided to exercise their option to buy at the end of the season. Since his move was made permanent for just £9.9 million in today’s inflated market, Dzeko has re-emerged as one of the top strikers in European football. With the form and consistency he’s shown since the start of the 16/17 campaign, it is agreed that Dzeko has been one of the best strikers in football for a good year or so now. This was recently cemented when Dzeko made this year’s 30-man shortlist for Ballon d’Or shortlist. Granted, you cannot give much weight to these individual awards, but the recognition he’s recently achieved is a testament to his ascension in the football world at the ripe age of 31. Last season, Dzeko finished as Serie A’s top scorer (with 29 goals) and smashed the club record for goals in a season (39 in all competitions), surpassing Totti’s previously held record by seven goals.
Since the start of this season, the Bosnian hasn’t missed a step. With ten goals in ten games, and a particularly sumptuous Van Persie-esque volley against the Blues recently, it’s clear that Dzeko is experiencing the best stretch of his career. Given how narrow the market for top strikers is in modern football, and how inflationary player values are, a fee of less than £10 million for a striker putting up those numbers is truly remarkable.
This brings us to Kolarov. Last season, Pep employed the veteran defender in an unfamiliar centre-half role to accommodate for changes that had to be made in order to fit the new system. Despite his efforts, it became clear very quickly that the Serbian wasn’t able to fulfill this new role, and since his age had also become a factor, it wasn’t surprising when the club was willing to get rid of him. However, since arriving at Roma, Kolarov has looked as good as new. Returning to his preferred role at left-back, Kolarov hasn’t had a poor performance yet. He looks as good as ever going forward, still poses a threat from set pieces, and has fitted into Di Francesco’s side rather seamlessly. In just eight Serie A matches played, Kolarov was man of the match in two of them, and he’s already picked up two goals and two assists. His presence was especially felt vs Torino in his most recent match. In addition to scoring the only goal of the match and earning himself man of the match, the former City man had the most touches on the pitch with 94. Fullbacks are far more important in the modern game than many give them credit for, and Kolarov’s recent string of performances and his overall influence on this Roma side is example of just that. Mind you, this is the man whose previous club demanded under £5 million for his current club to acquire him.
Again, it’s not that City were egregiously wrong to move the player on. As mentioned earlier, their system had changed dramatically and his abilities and preferences didn’t match that of Guardiola’s changes to the club, but the idea that he’s washed up for good, or that he never had much to offer in the first place have both been affirmatively debunked in a short period of time.
It’s examples like these that remind us that the utilization and morale of a player have a great influence on a player’s performance. Underperforming shouldn’t provoke us as fans to overreact and discredit everything about a player and his ability. After all, Arsenal have searched years for a top striker while trying not to break the bank (until recently), and one went just a few years ago for £9.9 million. The revival of Dzeko and Kolarov respectively has been a joy to watch, and reminds us not to be so impatient with our judgements as fans in a time when it’s become more and more common to do so.