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Edin Dzeko and Roma’s Greatest Number Nines

What stands between Dzeko and the title of ‘The Greatest’?

Chelsea FC v AS Roma - UEFA Champions League Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images

This weekend saw Edin Dzeko lead his team to 3 points for the umpteenth time in his relatively brief Roma career. His goals-per-game ratio is among the top three Roma most prolific in the club’s entire history and he’s on course to maintain his position as one of the top ten most prolific strikers in Serie A history (for goals-per-game) among any striker played that’s played 4 season or more in Italy.

However, since forming an unlikely unstanding with Eusebio Di Francesco, Dzeko has transformed himself into much more than just a bomber.

Dzeko has refined his all-round game in other to help the club break in young wide forwards at a time when Roma is focused on development of... as the saying goes... kiddies, band-aids and rejects (of which technically Dzeko himself was a Manchester City reject). Only Gervinho, Iago Falque, Seydou Doumbia and Diego Perotti could be considered “experienced” forwards alongside Dzeko during the Bosnian’s time in Rome so far - without overlooking the contribution from Roma’s legendary number 10 Francesco Totti in brief moments together on the pitch.

So who stands between Edin Dzeko and recognition as Roma’s - and even one of Serie A’s - greatest number 9s of all time?

Rodolfo Volk

106 Goals in 161 Matches | 1931 Capocannoniere

Included because of his monstrous 0.66 goals per game ratio, it has to be said there isn’t a lot of praise for Volk’s game, even relative to his peers at the time. His mantra was “I don’t think, I strike” but Croatian-born naturalised Italian Volk was kept out of the Azzurri side by none other than legendary striker Giuseppe Meazza, when Volk was in his prime.

Volk played for Roma just one year into the club’s birth, and kept on scoring in the capital until he left Rome in 1933. He remains the fourth-highest all-time scorer in Rome’s history, and a man Dzeko will struggle to catch up to in the scorer’s list. Volk remains one of only 7 Roma players to win the Capocannoniere award in Serie A, during the 1930/31 season.

Enrique ‘Enrico’ Guaita

42 Goals in 61 Matches | 1935 Capocannoniere


Guaita still holds the record for most prolific Serie A scorer in a 16-team league season, scoring 28 goals in 29 games during his second season at Roma. He earned himself the nickname ‘Black Pirate’ for achieving his first Roma hat-trick in the black away kit, during a game against Livorno.

The only thing that counts against Guaita is his short stay at the club, which he put paid to himself when he deserted Fascist Italy to avoid the unlikely event of him being sent to fight on the warfront in Africa at the time.

Argentinian by birth, Guaita’s greatest career success was winning the 1934 World Cup with Vittorio Pozzo’s Italy while Guaita was a Roma player. Back in those days, you weren’t getting away with playing for Roma - allegedly Mussolini’s club - without becoming a naturalised Italian and adopting the name “Enrico”.

Enrico Guaita would score for Italy in the World Cup semi-final and deliver an assist in the final, sealing Italy’s first ever World Cup win on home soil in the capital of Rome itself. However, Guaita’s fleeing the country just one year later led to him being accused of flimsy charges of embezzlement and trafficking. He overcame the blackballing of his name, but was never truly welcomed back into Italy again.

His burial in the dark corners of history means we’re not even sure he actually wore the number 9 shirt at the club, but his 0.71 goals-per-game ratio in Rome is monstrous and, like Volk before him, Guaita won the Capocannoniere award in Serie A during the 1934/35 season, whether history chooses to remember it or not.

Amadeo Amadei

106 Goals in 199 Matches | 1942 Scudetto winner

Gazzetta dello Sport

I won’t pretend for one second that I’ve seen Amadei play, but he goes down in history as the first Roma number 9 to lead the club to the Scudetto. Legendary Roma keeper Guido Masetti - of that same 1942 title-winning side - once claimed it was enough to give Amadei the ball anywhere in the opposition half to get a goal. But Amadei had to overcome the doubts of absolutely everyone before he earned the chance to play up front.

Initally Amadei was farmed out on loan to Atalanta after two unspectacular seasons on the bench as a Roma youth player, and there he showed an eye for goal in Serie B at the Bergomo club from the right wing. Amadei’s wages in Atalanta also helped to win over his father, initially standing against a son taking time away from the family bakery in Rome. Once Amadei was bringing home the money to keep the business running, no one could argue.

On Amadei’s return to Roma, Hungarian coach Alfréd Schaffer - a retired international striker himself - saw potential in moving the diminutive but stocky Italian up front, and the rest was history. A 0.53 goal-per-game strike rate won over everybody, though Amadei had to talk himself out of a lifetime ban for initially being found guilty of kicking a linesman during a Coppa Italia game in 1942.

The striker was later given a reprieve when he invited the referee to dinner in a Pescara restaurant, alongside Roma teammate Dagianti. Dagianti confessed to a case of mistaken identity, telling the ref it was him who’d done the deed and Amadei was let back into the sport in very short time. Amadei left Roma fans devastated with his move to Inter in 1948.

He never replicated his trophy success up north, but Amadei made a success of the Amadei Bakery until his death in 2013. The bakery business exists today as Panificio Amadei.

At international level, Amadei was never fancied by double World Cup-winning coach Pozzo. It took the Grande Torino team’s plane-crash disaster, and Torino-born Pozzo’s retirement from coaching the national team in his own personal devastation, to open the door for Amadei to represent Italy in 1949 at the tailend of his career.

7 goals in 13 games for Italy gave a glimpse as to what Amadei could have achieved in Azzuri colours.

Dino Da Costa

79 Goals in 163 Games | 1957 Capocannoniere |1961 Fairs Cup Winner

The most celebrated record in Italo-Brazilian Da Costa’s Roma career is his 12 goals scored against Lazio - a record for the Derby della Capitale as a whole. For a while, Da Costa was tied with Marco Delvecchio for most league goals scored against Lazio - both invited to a Olimpico pictorial ceremony in the 2012/13 season to mark the event - until Francesco Totti overtook them years later.

Nonetheless, despite Totti holding the league-scoring record against Lazio, ultimately Da Costa’s derby record in all-competitions stands to this day (even though it includes a goal scored in a friendly, though Da Costa could rightfully argue he had one goal contentiously chalked off as a Lazio own-goal in a league match).

Da Costa remains just inside the all-time top 10 goalscorers for Roma, though he was overtaken by Edin Dzeko this 2018/19 season. Da Costa’s decision to represent Italy at international level was ultimately doomed. He made just 1 single appearance in the 1958 World Cup qualifying campaign that, until the 2018 World Cup, represented Italy’s sole failure to qualify for the main event.

Pedro ‘Pietro’ Manfredini

104 Goals in 164 Appearances | 1963 Capocannoniere |1964 Coppa Italia Winner |1961 Fairs Cup Winner

Il Romanista

Manfredini only just recently passed away in January of 2019, and he lived long enough to be personally inducted into Roma’s Hall of Fame by James Pallotta in 2015.

Manfredini remains the record foreign top-scorer for Roma, and Edin Dzeko will have to edge closer to Manfredini’s 0.63 goals-per-game ratio at the club if Dzeko wants to eventually overtake Manfredini’s 104 goals. It’s a big ask, and Manfredini is serious competition on individual and team trophies alone.

The Argentinian was the big man for the big occasion in Rome, taking home the Capocannoniere award not just in Serie A, but landing the top-scorer awards in his team’s successful Italian Cup and European Fairs cup campaigns too.

Roberto Pruzzo

138 Goals in 315 Games | 3-Time Capocannoniere | 4-Time Coppa Italia winner | 1983 Scudetto Winner

If there is one man on this list who’s a pure bomber inside the box, it is Roberto Pruzzo. A club legend and hall-of-famer, Pruzzo will remain in Roma’s record books for the longevity of his career alone. Roma have Luciano Moggi to thank for bringing Pruzzo to the capital.

In the late 1970s, a young Pruzzo was making a name for himself at Genoa and was heavily rumoured to be the next big signing for Juventus. But his agent Moggi fell out with Boniperti at Juve and, in a Mino Raiola-esque powerplay, would push Pruzzo to sign for Gaetano’s Roma instead. The future president Dino Viola was allegedly not impressed with Moggi even back then, and wouldn’t have signed Pruzzo for the exorbitant fee if Viola had come into the presidency soon enough. Nevertheless, by the end of that decade, Pruzzo was wearing the number 9 shirt in Rome and beginning a long journey that would culminate in Dino Viola’s finest-ever Roma footballing side of the early 1980s under coach Nils Liedholm.

Roma took a while to build a functioning team, as Pruzzo’s goalscoring feats for Rome in the late 70s only served to help Roma avoid Serie A relegation in his first season in the capital. But the turn of the 80s brought Coppa Italia trophy after trophy, and top-scorer award after top-scorer award for Pruzzo.

Roma would have had another Scudetto to show for Pruzzo’s time at the club, had it not been for “Turone’s goal” - a legitimate Roma goal scored away to Juventus in the 1980/81 season that was chalked off for a phantom offside call and stopped Roma moving ahead of Juventus in the title race at the very end of that season.

Pruzzo would only have to wait another two seasons to lead Roma’s frontline and deliver the club’s second Italian league title. It was a title that Roma’s superior football and team stocked full of talent deserved. Pruzzo also scored the equalizing goal in Rome’s only-ever European Cup final on home soil against Liverpool, though it went in vain as the Lupi lost that final on penalties.

In a very long career that eventually delivered a 0.44 goal-per-game ratio, Pruzzo is the club’s second top scorer of all time. He has only been overtaken by Francesco Totti and won’t be caught by Edin Dzeko.

Rudi Völler

68 Goals in 197 Games | 1991 Coppa Italia Winner

AS Roma Twitter

Initally deemed a waste of money by Dino Viola, in a Serie A era where non-Italian player quotas were limited, Völler maintains he was “booed just like anyone else” in a 2015 interview. Everyone had good reason to be disappointed: injuries and an operation meant Voller scored only 3 goals in his first one-and-a-half seasons at Roma. Take heart, Patrik Schick.

By the turn of 1989, however, Völler’s work rate got him back into form and his goalscoring turned the corner. It wouldn’t be long before the ‘Flying German’ got his own personal chant in the Curva Sud. Luckily, he had Giuseppe Giannini and Bruno Conti for team-mates and later formed a respectable strike partnership with Ruggiero Rizzitelli; but Völler often did all the work by himself when the team needed him to score goals out of nothing. Nevertheless, league days in Völler’s time at the club weren’t glorious.

The Giallorossi were easily overshadowed by Arrigo Sacchi’s Milan and Trapattoni’s Inter (who would beat Roma in the 1991 UEFA Cup final back when the UEFA Cup was a big deal), while the fairytale title-victories of Maradona’s Napoli and Vudajin Boskov’s Sampdoria meant Roma weren’t even anyone else’s second-favourite club in Serie A anymore - all this just a few short years after the glory of the early 80s.

It would be Boskov, hired by Roma to try and mimic Sampdoria’s success in the early 90s, that decided he didn’t fancy Völler and send the German striker packing to Marseille. Roma didn’t finish higher than 5th in the league in all Völler’s years spent in the capital, but Rome is the site of Völler’s greatest success in a roundabout way.

The event was the 1990 World Cup final, where Maradona’s Argentina rode a wave of support throughout Italia ‘90 but weren’t counting on the support Völler’s West Germany would get in the Stadio Olimpico during that July final. Germany took the World Cup trophy and Völler stood apart from the German team while he pointed to the Curva Sud in celebration. His emotional tie to the club only got stronger after he left Roma, immediately winning the 1993 Champions League with Marseille and dedicating that trophy to Roma in the press, too.

A lot of the emotional tie boils down to Völler’s marriage to Roman wife Sabrina for over twenty years now. Völler famously reflected by claiming: “When people ask me about my time in Italy, I don’t say I’m half Italian but half Roman.”

Among his successes with Roma, he can count a lobbed penalty in a Rome derby against Lazio and winning the Coppa Italia. What counts against Voller is his goals-per-game ratio which undoubtedly would be higher had it not been for a rough start with injuries at Roma. Nonetheless, Voller is the club’s fourth-highest foreign scorer of all time.

Abel Balbo

87 Goals in 182 Games | 2001 Scudetto Winner

Getty Images

I gotta admit, I was never impressed with Balbo in a Roma shirt. That’s only because, by the time I became a Roma fan, Balbo was a spent force in Italian football. His hair was thinning and he looked awkwardly stilted coming off the bench for Roma, in his final spell as a bit-part player under Fabio Capello. Little did I realise, a few Sporcle trivia quizzes and years later, that Balbo’s second spell at Roma only told less than half the story of his entire Roma career.

In the late-80s to early 90s, Udinese introduced Balbo to Italian football and the Argentine was lethal. He replaced the disappointing Carnevale at Roma in 1993 - for the sum of 18 billion lire - and replicated his prolific form in a Giallorossi shirt alongside Daniel Fonseca. But it was the next season, playing alongside a newly minted Francesco Totti in 1994/95, that Balbo would enjoy his most prolific form in Rome crowned by a hat-trick against Inter Milan at the Olimpico.

Nonetheless, score as Balbo might, Roma only managed 5th place in the league as the highest finish in Balbo’s first spell at the club. The Argentine then became a Serie A journeyman bouncing between Parma and Fiorentina, before Fabio Capello recalled Balbo backed to the capital in the year 2000.

Balbo barely played in his second stint, making only 3 appearances and not scoring a single goal. But he did enough to pick up a Serie A league winner’s medal in 2001, which did justice to the years before banging in goals under Mazzone.

As the club’s 7th-highest top scorer, Abel Balbo is the next in line to be overtaken by Edin Dzeko. It could happen anytime this season.

Gabriel Batistuta

30 Goals in 63 Games | 2001 Scudetto Winner

Gabriel Batistuta

The reason I became a Roma fan is Gabriel Batistuta, proving that big-money big-name signings was (and probably still is) the quickest way to expand the fan base.

It wouldn’t take long during that 2000/01 season for me to notice a player in the number 10 jersey wearing a white Alice-band was my number 1 reason for sticking with Roma, but it was nonetheless Batigol that got my best friend in high school telling me to stay up late and watch Roma games on Football Italia’s Mezzanotte show. My friend was a massive Fiorentina fan at the time for several years, and even he switched allegiances to Giallorosso when the club signed Batistuta.

Batistuta’s inclusion on this list is based on his clutch mental strength, and his talent rising to the top in Serie A’s most competitive era.

Consider the fact that Batistuta’s overall 0.56 goals-per-game ratio (for his entire Serie A career) is the highest ever in Serie A over for any player having played over 4 seasons. Yet he only ever took home the Capocannoniere award once for Fiorentina in the 1994/95 season. That was the level of competition in Serie A at the time, both in terms of offensive and defensive talent. The league was nothing near as open tactically as the current decade in calcio today.

Absolutely everyone who was anyone in the footballing world wanted to play in Italy, and Batistuta wowed the crowds more than anyone else. His Champions League goal against Manchester United in Viola colours is still one of the most ridiculous goals I’ve ever seen, to say nothing of his goals against Arsenal in the same competition.

Leave Batistuta uncontested on the ball anywhere inside 30 yards to goal, and the ball was in the back of the net. It’s not really an exaggeration to say that, it’s just that the power of his shot eventually cost him his knees and very nearly cost him his ability to walk, by the time his career was prematurely done at top level.

Batistuta resisted all calls to abandon Fiorentina for bigger pastures until he signed in a mega-bucks move to Roma in 2000. Fiorentina fans couldn’t believe it, and melted down Batistuta’s bronze statue in Florence as a protest.

The pressure was all on Batistuta when he arrived in Rome as the club’s record signing (a record still intact to this day): Fail to win the title, and he’d have chucked away his legacy in Florence for nothing (it has since been restored as he was made an honourary citizen of Florence this side of the millenium). Win the title with Roma, and Batistuta would forever be seen as a mercenary regardless.

There was no upside to Batistuta’s task in the capital; he just wanted to win a Scudetto that would do his career justice. He succeeded with 20 goals in 28 games, bagging Roma’s third and most recent league title in 2001 at home to Parma. Giving all he had left to give of his body in that season, Batigol was never the same again as his long-standing knee injury finally caught up with him. Batistuta is not even in the Roma top-scorer’s list as a result, and the striker technically never even wore the number 9 shirt for the club.

Vincenzo Montella, unwanted by Fabio Capello at the time, refused to neither leave the club nor hand over the number 9 to Batistuta, in order for Montella to make his own point that the Italian was staying put. Then Batistuta was even gracious enough, as a title-winner, to hand over his number 18 shirt to big-money signing Antonio Cassano in the 2001/02 season.

That exemplifies just how minimal a footprint Batistuta left in the capital - and unfortunately his relationship with the club was book-ended by a failed lawsuit against AS Roma’s old management over his health problems many years later - but what little footballing history there is of Batistuta in Rome made a devastating impact on the pitch.

How many facets of these men’s games does Dzeko combine into his own game in the modern era? And is Dzeko Roma’s greatest number 9 in the club’s history?


Is Edin Dzeko Roma's greatest number 9?

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