Croatian Striker Mario Mandzukic will be joining Atletico Madrid from Bayern Munich according to Matthias Sammer the Sporting Director of the Bavarian giants. Although nothing has yet been officially announced, Sammer confirmed Mandzukic’s departure when announcing the arrival of Bayern’s new striker, Robert Lewandowski, in a press conference saying, “Nothing is signed yet. But I think each other’s word can be relied upon.”
Although his contract at Bayern ran until 2016, Mandzukic is making the move to Madrid to replace Diego Costa who was signed by Chelsea earlier in the summer. The 28 year-old Croatian has played in 54 league games for Bayern scoring 33 goals since joining the club in 2012. He was transferred to Bayern from VfL Wolfsburg for a transfer fee of €13 million.
At VfL Wolfsburg, Mandzuic moved to striker from a left-wing role in a 4-3-3 after the departure of Edin Džeko. Mandzukic scored his first Bundesliga goal against 1. FC Nürnberg in January 2011. He scored eight goals in seven matches toward the end of the 2010-2011 league season after Felix Magath was named the manager replacing Steve McClaren. Mandzukic showed natural finishing instincts during this period, which he has continued to display ever since. After arriving in Munich, Mandzukic helped Bayern win the DFL German Supercup in his first season by scoring his first goal for the club against rivals Borrusia Dortmund in the sixth minute of the match. He finished his first Bundesliga season with Bayern as their top goal scorer with 22 goals in all competitions. The club won the UEFA Champions League, a competition in which Manduzic scored three goals. Last season, Manduzic tallied 26 goals in all competitions as Bayern won the domestic double.
He debuted for the Croatian National team in 2007 and helped Croatia qualify for Euro 2012 by scoring a late equalizer against Georgia in a critical qualifier. He finished the tournament as the joint-top goal scorer with three goals along with Mario Balotelli, and Cristiano Ronaldo among others. He was instrumental in Croatia’s qualifying for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and scored twice in his first game of the tournament against Cameroon and was awarded the “Man of the Match.”
Atletico Madrid has a recent history of replacing top strikers with equally potent goal-scorers. Fernando Torres was replaced with Diego Forlan and Kun Aguero. When Forlan and Aguero left, they were replaced by Radamel Falcao and Diego Costa. Now Manduzic, a European Champion with Bayern will be asked to fill the void left by Costa.