Mario Mandzukic: The Croat star basking in Bayern’s glory

In what has been a barnstorming start to the Bundesliga season for FC Bayern, some players’ performances have been outstanding. Croat Mario Mandžukić has lead the line superbly and set the league alight with remarkable form in front of goal….

Euro 2012 was a tournament which somewhat disappointed in terms of individual performances. Household names such as Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Andrea Pirlo were the ones who took the plaudits, but Croatia seemed to have produced a player whose form managed to turn heads of many.

Mario Mandžukić burst onto the global scene with a spectacular brace against the Republic of Ireland and the striker was quickly linked with a move away from his club VFL Wölfsburg.

Everton were reportedly keen in partnering Mandžukić with international team mate Nikica Jelavić but it was instead German powerhouses and Champions League runners-up Bayern Munich who gave Mandžukić the opportunity to play Champions League football for a top club, something the Toffees couldn’t offer.

With Mario Gomez the only striker at Bayern in the summer, they required more firepower. Mandžukić was signed to compete with his namesake and, crucially, score goals. He has not disappointed.

When he was signed it was expected that he would start his career with the club playing second fiddle to Gomez but a pre-season ankle injury to the German meant Mandžukić was immediately asked to be the team’s main striker. He seized his chance, and 2 months into Gomez’s return Jupp Heynckes has been left by Mandžukić with no choice but to pick his summer signing over Germany’s first choice Centre forward.

The Croat has effortlessly slotted into the team.Hisaerial prowesspaired with his clinical finishing ability have made him an instant hit with FCB’s fans, players and coaches alike.

An impressive 14 goals in 18 games stands him in good stead as the top scorer in the Bundesliga, dominated by the Bavarian giants. He’s been man of the match in his last two games, showing that he definitely didn’t lose any sharpness over the winter break.

Mandžukić possesses many traits as a striker but selfishness definitely isn’t one  of them – he has created 78 chances for his team mates and provided two assists. Add that to his remarkable goal tally and you’ve got one hell of a striker.

FCB lead second place Borussia Dortmund by a chasm of 12 points – and in doing so consigning those consecutive title wins for Die Borussen to history. There is no denying that Mandžukić could not have done so well without the rest of Heynckes team putting in a shift.

The midfield, marshaled excellently by Bastian Schweinsteiger, has been majestic game after game, with Thomas Müller playing a large part in Mandžukić’s form in front of goal. Hauls of 11 goals and 8 assists, the most in the league, have proved to critics that the midfield man is more than capable of showing the form of World Cup 2010.

Mandžukić is only just starting to receive plaudits across the football world but at all his clubs he has provided goals. Having to step in for Gomez was a familiar situation to the Croat, upon whose shoulders was placed the burden of taking over the goal scoring mantle of Edin Džeko as the Bosnian left Wölfsburg in 2011.

At the age of 26, he may now be at the peak of his powers, and the chance to play at a club the size of Bayern is one that is a long time coming and well deserved.

Whether Mandžukić and Gomez will be used together in attack by Heynckes is yet to be seen, especially with attacking midfield trio of Müller, Toni Kroos and Franck Ribery firing on all cylinders (not to mention Robben and Shaqiri). As an indication of how well Mandžukić has played, Mario Gomez was placed instantly into Germany’s highly anticipated friendly with France yet has been resigned to only one Bundesliga start all season.

There is no doubt that the 2012 Croatian Player of the Year can go on to establish himself as one of the best in Europe, and what better way to continue his scintillating form than Bayern’s upcoming Champions League encounter with Arsenal? The Gunners will be wary, as every defence in Germany is.


Written by Richard Burn

Follow Richard on Twitter @richard_burn15

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