SUPER MARIO: POZNAN BECOMES MANDZUKIC’S ASYLUM

Even though he had a decent season at VfL Wolfsburg, scoring 12 goals (seven of which were headers – the most in the Bundesliga), Felix Magath does not need him. He was told his contract wasn’t going to be extended at the end of last season. The coach was fed up with his conduct on and off the field and that led to the coach deciding to get rid of him for a reasonable transfer fee. But his 10 days in Gdańsk and Poznan changed everything. He owes such performances to Eduardo’s dip in form, Ivica Olic’s injury and a ladybug (maybe). Mario Mandžukić (26) impressed with his 3 goals at Euro 2012. On the back of his performances last season, you will understand why more teams have paid attention to the Croatia hitman now.

Has Euro 2012 unearthed a hidden gem? Two weeks ago, football fans would have shaken their head when asked about a 26-year-old striker, Mario Mandzukic.The VFL Wolfsburg star put in master-class performances troubling defences all throughout the tournament. His magnificent partnership with Nikica Jelavic upfront was one of the deadliest partnerships at EURO 2012.

Mandzukic’s game against Werder Bremen at the Volkswagen Arena last season might have been the last time club president Dr. Francisco Javier García Sanz and Magath saw him in VfL Wolfsburg’s green shirt.

THE MERCILESS HURRICANE

‘The merciless hurricane’ emerged as Croatia’s first-choice central striker during EURO 2012 qualifying, scoring three goals and repeating that feat in the main tournament.

Born in Slavonski Brod, Mandžukić made his first footballing steps as a 6 year old at the German club Ditzingen. Ditzingen is a town in the district of Ludwigsburg, Baden-Württemberg, Germany. It is situated about 10 km northwest of Stuttgart, and 12 km southwest of Ludwigsburg.

Upon his return to his home city he spent the period between 1997 and 2003 at Marsonia, before spending a season at the city minnows NK Željezničar. The next season he returned to local club NK Marsonia, a team he began his professional career with and scored 14 goals in his debut season in the Croatian second division, which prompted a transfer to top-flight NK Zagreb in the summer of 2005. He thrived under the tuition of Miroslav Blažević and earned a lot interest from other clubs.

In the summer of 2007 he was bought by the Croatian powerhouse Dinamo Zagreb for €1.3 million as a replacement for their star striker Eduardo da Silva. He struggled in his first season at Zagreb but found the net 11 times in his second top-flight campaign and earned a cross-city move to Dinamo, where he was expected to fill the boots of the departed Eduardo.

The 6 ft 1 striker proved a worthy replacement for the Brazilian-born Croatian international, scoring 12 league goals and 11 assists throughout 29 matches, in his first season, a league-best tally of 16 (2008–09 Prva HNL league’s top goalscorer) in 28 appearances, in his second and another 14 in 2009/10, helping Dinamo to the title in each campaign. He also won two Croatian Cups and appeared three seasons running in the UEFA Cup/Europa League group stage.In total he scored 42 goals in 81 appearances for Dinamo Zagreb.

A triple Croatian champion with GNK Dinamo Zagreb, where he was a frequent goalscorer, topping the Prva Liga charts in 2008/09, Mario Mandžukić has proved his class in Germany with VfL Wolfsburg.

 

SUPER MARIO

Die Mannschaft and Azzurri may have Mario Gomez and Mario Balotelli respectively but the Croats also have their own ‘Super Mario’.

In the summer of 2010 Mandžukić signed for VFL Wolfsburg for a fee believed to be around €8 million. He recovered from a poor start to score eight goals in the closing weeks and rescue the club from relegation. He surpassed that tally with 12 strikes in the 2011/12 Bundesliga season, the highlight being a double in a 2-1 home win against Schalke 04.He  made 10 assists from 32 league games, directly contributing a goal to his team at a rate of over two goals every three matches.

A huge aerial threat, seven of the forward’s 12 goals were headers, while he won more aerial duels than any other player in the Bundesliga (only Stefan Kiessling won more duels). He has 60 appearances and 20 goals for the Bundesliga side.

LUNATIC

His nature has been compared to that of another Super Mario. He had a bad disciplinary record, collecting 8 yellow cards in his first season at Dinamo in Croatia. Mandzukic frequently got booked for strange reasons. He always let his team down with his childish acts.In 2009, after Dinamo lost 2–0 at home to Anderlecht in Europa League, Mandžukić was controversially fined €100,000 after being accused for poor performance.

The club had to settle for a much lower transfer fee than they originally had asked for after they were fed up with his behaviour and he was thus shipped to Germany.On the back of a good 2011/12 season, where statistically he’s been on a par with some of the best forwards in Europe, the general lack of interest in the player is hard to understand. Mandzukic has not impressed authoritative Wolfsburg coach Felix Magath, who is ready to get rid of the striker for any reasonable fee.

He got into conflict with Magath as talks to extend his contract collapsed.Mandzukic was the club’s top scorer  last season and thus asked the club to increase his pay.He couldn’t reach a consensus with the club, Magath lost his cool and put him in the stands and benched him for most of the games.The manager thinks no coach can tame him.Magath is well known for being notorious for his hard, grinding training methods, laying heavy emphasis on discipline, fitness and conditioning.  Players have given him nicknames like Saddam (Saddam Hussein) or Quälix, a combination of his first name Felix and the German verb quälen (to torture)

The manager disliked Mandzukic for not working hard enough in training, as well as his lack of to track back to help the defence. He’s an aggressive striker, but often looks reluctant and arrogant on the pitch. When midfielders fail to pass him the ball, he sometimes gets upset and reacts like a little baby. It has also been reported that he enjoys taunting the younger players in training, waiting for them to collect all the balls at the end of the session and then firing them at the goal again. Very childish.

 

LADYBUG

Many cultures view ladybugs as lucky and a great deal of superstition surrounds these small and stylishly outfitted insects. One of the most common superstitions about ladybugs is the idea that killing a ladybug will bring down bad luck. Having a ladybug land on you is supposedly to be particularly lucky in some cultures.

In some Christian societies, especially in Europe, the ladybug is linked with the Virgin Mary, also known as Our Lady to devout Catholics. In Croatia ladybugs are believed to bring good luck.

According to Mario Mandzukic’s father, he saw a ladybug on the window drape in his apartment in Slavonski Brod. He made a wish and he had asked for his son to score two goals. And so he did. Mandzukic fired in another goal in the match against Italy, as Croatia levelled the score but got kicked by Spain in their last game on June 18,a week before Statehood Day.It’s a national holiday  in Croatia to celebrate the country’s 1991 declaration of independence from Yugoslavia.

 

 KING OF POZNAN

Manchester City fans now use The Poznań celebration after their clash with Lech Poznań in the group stages of the 2010/2011 UEFA Europa League. It’s in this town that Mario showed his class.

Mandzukic’s international career got off to a slow start with just two goals in his first 24 caps, but having scored six goals for Croatia in his last seven games, the Wolfsburg star is relishing being his nation’s main man in attack.He scored his first goal for Croatia on only his second appearance – a consolation effort in a 4-1 home defeat by England in 2010 FIFA World Cup qualifying. It took him another 15 games before he struck for his country again but he came well on the road to EURO 2012, finding the net against Georgia, Latvia and, in the first leg of the play-off, Turkey.

Croatia played two of their 3 games in Poznan and its there that Mario scored all his goals. After those goals,surprise star striker Mario Mandzukic has become Euro 2012’s biggest beneficiary.Mario Mandzukic, who enriched his CV with a brace of headers to down the  Republic of Ireland and a goal against the Italians, has seen his stock raised.

He came into Euro 2012 with very low media interest in him, and hardly any transfer speculation. An offer from Spurs for the VfL Wolfsburg target-man never materialised, while no other club was seriously linked with a bid. Most sides in Europe  disagreed with the £8.8 million valuation for the forward.

HOT CAKE

Mandzukic, who has replaced Eduardo as first choice having been signed by Dinamo Zagreb in 2007 to replace the Brazilian-born marksman when he left for Arsenal, has become a hot cake as European scavengers are waiting to snatch him.

It’s is no surprise to see him attracting interest from Premier League clubs. Everton are lining up a bid to bring the Wolfsburg striker to Goodison Park. He could link up with international teammate Nikica Jelavic in attack, but the problem for Everton is that the more goals he scores the higher his price tag becomes.

The Croatian is looking for a move away from Germany and the Toffees are interested in linking him up with international teammate Nikica Jelavic, who signed for Everton in January.A bid in the region of £8 million has been suggested and Mandzukic’s agent has spoken about the player’s desire to play football elsewhere next season.

Italian champions Juventus are also weighing up a bid for the striker but David Moyes will be hoping that the promise of regular first team action in the Premier League – as well as playing alongside countryman Jelavic – will be enough to tempt Mandzukic to Everton.

His contract runs out in 2014 and with Wolfsburg  set to listen to offers for Mandzukic this summer as newly side strikers Ivica Olic and Eredivisie topscorer Bas Dost will be ahead of him in the pecking order, and given his form last season, Felix Magath and Die Wölfe will benefit the most as the striker’s stock has risen after his exploits at Poland and Ukraine.

 

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