Dzeko & Grafite: Wolfsburg’s dynamic duo that blew the Bundesliga away

Danny Ryan

In the last five years, the Bavarian animal of Bayern Munich has dominated the summit of the Bundesliga but back in 2008/09, they were defeated by Felix Magath’s Wolfsburg.

The Volkswagen team finished two points ahead of Die Roten to claim their maiden league title. They were simply brilliant throughout the season and much of their success was down to the telepathic striking partnership of Edin Dzeko and forgotten Brazillian centre-forward, Grafite.

The two goal-getters were fairly unknown entities before the season kicked off but after the final round of games, they had sewn themselves into the folklore of Bundesliga history. Not only did they win the title, they set an unprecedented record that may not be beaten for some years.

As a duo, they managed 54 goals in just 34 league outings, an average of 1.59 strikes a game and their amazing feat saw them claim the record as the most prolific striking partnership in the history of the German top-flight. Who did they beat? Only Gerd Muller and Uli Hoeness with the legendary Bayern double act notching 53 goals between them in the 1971/72 season – the former hit 40 of those goals.

For Dzeko and Grafite the goals were more evenly distributed with the Brazilian recording 28 while the gangly Bosnian weighed in with 26 of his own. Amazingly, they did not even start every game with the former starting 25 while the latter made only 29 appearances from the start.

They were frighteningly efficient, an athletic, clinical and brutal partnership which worked with such effectiveness that most Bundesliga defences were powerless in their efforts to stop it. Both strikers possessed enormous physical prowess as well, making the job of stopping them even more difficult. To put it simply, they had a total lack of empathy for the plight of opposition defenders, a trait crucial for success.

This was not a polar opposite Peter Crouch and Jermain Defoe-type partnership, these two operated in almost an identical manner but for some reason, the two foreign imports just fed off of one another and they were said to be very close off the pitch.

Their finest hour as Germany’s most feared pairing was on April 4, 2009, when Bayern made the trip to Wolfsburg. The destination of the Bundesliga was on the line and under enormous pressure, the two centre-forwards delivered a display that should be presented to every young striker looking to learn the trade

They would go on to win 5-1 with Dzeko and Grafite both scoring a brace and their overall performance was one of true beauty and bullish power. Germany’s dominant Goliath could not handle the two uncaged beasts and one moment from the Brazilian will forever be associated with the fixture. The South American powerhouse had scored his first to make it 4-1 three minutes before but in the 77th minute, he produced a moment worthy of Lionel Messi, Diego Maradona and Pele combined.

Picking up the ball from near the halfway line, Grafite drove at the wilting Bayern defence, slalomed between three of four attempted tackles, including one from the goalkeeper and then, when it appeared he had taken the ball to far, he elegantly backheeled it into the goal. It was a moment of artistry that summed up the confidence which pulsated through the veins of the two strikers that memorable season.

Of course, Wolfsburg’s fate in 2008/09 was not entirely decided by their striking alliance; Bosnian midfielder, Zvjezdan Misimovic, recorded a mammoth 20 assists, bettering Emil Forsberg’s ludicrous tally of 19 in 2016/17 for RB Leipzig.

Nevertheless, Grafite and Dzeko were the catalysts for success, a coalition based on a psychic understanding and ruthlessness, going on to become the most lethal double act on European soil since Ant & Dec.

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