ROME (AP) - Edin Dzeko and Ciro Immobile are enjoying a Roman renaissance this season.
On both sides of the Tiber River, the Roma and Lazio strikers are scoring at a rate that has already - less than three months into Serie A - eclipsed their output from last season.
Dzeko leads the Italian league with 10 goals in 11 matches while Immobile is next on the scorers’ chart with nine goals.
Last season, Dzeko produced only eight league goals in his dismal first year in Italy after transferring from Manchester City, while Immobile hit the target five times on loan with Torino.
“It’s never easy in Italy, even for the best players. Serie A is a very tactical league and it’s not easy for people coming from abroad to get used to it,” Roma midfielder Radja Nainggolan said after Dzeko completed his fourth two-goal match of the season in a 4-2 win at Austria Vienna in the Europa League on Thursday.
“He barely got going last year and people started to criticize him after two games without a goal,” Nainggolan added. “He’s always looked sharp in training and this year he’s proving himself with lots of goals. … He’s showing he’s a top striker.”
Dzeko is on pace to beat the 16 goals he scored when he helped City win the English Premier League title in 2014. And he already has 12 goals in 16 matches in all competitions for Roma this season.
It’s been quite a turnaround for a player who Roma fans ridiculed as being “cieco” - the Italian word for blind, which rhymes with Dzeko.
When Roma signed Dzeko a year ago, the Bosnian appeared to be the perfect fit for a squad full of speedy wingers and playmakers but lacking a true center forward.
At 1.93 meters (6-foot-4), Dzeko is finally putting his height to use against the smaller defenders of Serie A - scoring on a header without even jumping against Napoli last month - and clinically redirecting crosses from Mohamed Salah and Stephan El Shaarawy.
Roma coach Luciano Spalletti has been just as pleased with Dzeko’s efforts to help out on defense as with his goals.
“He feels like he’s more a part of the squad now and that has enabled him to get back to being the great player that he is,” Spalletti said.
Meanwhile, Immobile is also back to his best after leading Serie A with 22 goals in 2014 for Torino.
After that big-scoring season, Immobile transferred to Borussia Dortmund and lost his scoring touch. A loan spell at Sevilla didn’t help but another loan back to Torino for the second half of last season reunited him with current Italy coach Gian Piero Ventura and reignited his desire.
After a full transfer to Lazio in July for a reported fee of 8.5 million euros ($9.4 million) - half of what Dortmund paid for him two years earlier - Immobile has helped Lazio to an unexpected fourth place in Serie A and become one of Ventura’s top choices at forward for the national team.
Lazio supporters have likened Immobile’s exploits to those of Miroslav Klose, the recently retired Germany great who spent his final five seasons with the Roman club. Media have labeled the transformation at forward as a one-letter change from “Miro” to Ciro.
Bruno Giordano, another former Lazio great, called Immobile Italy’s best current center forward.
“A couple of poor unfortunate seasons abroad made us forget his worth but Ciro is still really good. I think he’ll be the top scorer in the league,” Giordano told the Gazzetta dello Sport.
Dzeko and Immobile go head-to-head in the season’s first Rome derby on Dec. 4, while this weekend Roma hosts Bologna and Lazio visits Immobile’s hometown club Napoli.
Andrew Dampf on Twitter: www.twitter.com/asdampf
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