Edin Dzeko will take to the San Siro pitch with old friend Mohamed Salah when Inter Milan take on Liverpool in the Champions League last 16 on Wednesday, a reminder of the havoc the pair used to cause together at Roma.
After an anonymous time at Chelsea and signs of promise at Fiorentina, Salah’s career really started to take off after arriving in the Italian capital in 2015.
Once firmly established as strike partners under Luciano Spalletti, Dzeko and Salah hit it off in a big way, scoring 58 goals in all competitions in 2016-17 and helping Roma to second in Serie A as an ageing Francesco Totti was shunted aside.
Salah’s inconsistent but at times unstoppable performances earned him a move to Merseyside, where under Jurgen Klopp he quickly became one of the world’s best, for what now looks a paltry 50 million euros (at the time £43 million).
“I must say, in some little way, I helped Momo become what he is now,” Dzeko said in an interview published by the Daily Mail last week.
“We had a great time together in Rome… I’m so happy for him, a great guy who deserves everything he has achieved.”
Dzeko looks a player reborn since making the move north from Roma in the summer, and has been such a hit with Inter fans that they have largely forgotten Romelu Lukaku, the key man behind last season’s league triumph.
Lukaku’s now infamous interview with Sky Sport Italia was met with little more than shrugged shoulders from Inter fans.
Less prolific than Lukaku, Dzeko has nonetheless scored 14 goals in all competitions and often pops up when it matters.
DZEKO CONQUERS MILAN
His equaliser in Saturday’s pulsating title clash at Napoli ensured that Inter, a point behind new leaders AC Milan but with game in hand, still hold the advantage in the race for the league crown despite almost being blown away in the first half at the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona.
It was his double against Shakhtar Donetsk which effectively secured Inter’s place in the last 16 with a game to spare, taking Inter into the knockouts for the first time in a decade.
Dzeko said he didn’t expect to move when Jose Mourinho took over at Roma, and it was a transfer which was greeted with some scepticism in Milan after a poor final season at Roma which also included a public spat with former coach Paulo Fonseca.
However he has added a new dimension to Inter’s play under Simone Inzaghi, who like Dzeko spent the summer with fans in open revolt at the sale of Lukaku and Achraf Hakimi but has improved on what Antonio Conte’s Lukaku-centric iteration served up.
Inzaghi has a near full squad from which to pick his starting line up after Alessandro Bastoni recovered from an ankle injury, although Italy midfielder Nicolo Barella is suspended for both legs after being sent off in Inter’s final group game at Real Madrid.
The only real question is whether Lautaro Martinez or Alexis Sanchez will start up front alongside Dzeko, who will be looking to beat Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson Becker, who was a key figure in Roma’s run to the 2018 Champions League semi-finals where they were beaten by a Reds side led by Salah.
Liverpool have already been to the San Siro once this season, strolling past AC Milan and knocking Inter’s local rivals out of Europe.
But Dzeko doesn’t think the gap between Italy’s top sides and Europe’s best is as big as that match made it seem.
“We played two even matches with Real Madrid, we should have won the first one but we weren’t at the level we are right now,” Dzeko recently told the Corriere Della Sera.
“Liverpool are a good side, they’re beatable but they can also hit five past you. We going to give it a go.”