For the second straight summer, Mario Mandzukic has found himself in a new league, getting to know a new city, a new country and brand new teammates. Twelve months ago, it was Atlético Madrid and Spain, now it's Juventus and Italy. Change is inevitable, but not necessarily three teams in three seasons kind of change for a striker of Mandzukic's quality.
Mandzukic arrives at Juventus after many consider his 12-month stay in Spain not exactly the most extraordinary of times. But don't tell Max Allegri about that slow season in Madrid, with Juventus' second-year manager heaping praise upon Mandzukic after the Old Lady's 2-0 win over Lazio in the Italian Super Cup last weekend.
"I think Mandzukic is a great player, otherwise I wouldn't have given my approval to bring him in. Apart from his character, I think that his movement going forward is excellent. Apart from his goal, I think he also showed some good individual skill for our second goal. It's normal that he still needs to get to know his teammates, but I would say that I'm very happy about his performance — especially because he missed a great chance and then recovered immediately to score the opener."
That quote from Mister Allegri is a legit one. I know that because I personally transcribed it straight from a video on the internet. You can all thank me for doing such a task later if you want to.
What that quote tells us is pretty simple: Allegri isn't letting Mandzukic's "down" season really skew his view of the 29-year-old Croatian striker. Instead, Allegri — and Juventus' management as a whole for that matter — are banking on Mandzukic's goal-scoring numbers getting back to what he did in the Bundesliga, not La Liga. Those numbers are as follows:
|SEASON||TEAM||GAMES PLAYED||GAMES STARTED||GOALS||ASSISTS|
So, that's an average of in just over 13 goals in about 28 league games over the last five seasons. Are they the kind of numbers like Carlos Tévez put up over the last two years that will smack you in the face because they're so impressive? No. However, even in a down season, Mandzukic pretty much kept his goal-every-other-game ways going. And if he stays relatively healthy this season while maintaining those numbers,
But, you see, he's already ahead of that pace. One official Juventus game played, one goal. No pressure, Mario!
Okay, so I'll get back to the point.
Unlike another summer signing named Paulo Dybala, we know what Mandzukic's role will be. He is the prima punta, and he is there to score goals just like he did in the Supercoppa. At 6-foot-2, he will look to be on the end of crosses the same way Fernando Llorente was during his first season with Juve. Just look at his goal in the Supercoppa as Exhibit A — rising between two defenders to put away a quality cross into the box. As for Exhibit B, this is what Mandzukic did during his time in Germany with Bayern.
It's natural to think that Allegri and Juventus' front office are banking on Mandzukic looking more like the player that was with Bayern rather than the one from a year ago with Atlético Madrid. And it's natural to compare Mandzukic to another fantastic Juventus prima punta because of the jersey number he will be wearing this season. But while he may not be the world-class poacher that David Trezeguet was during his own fantastic playing career, it's not all that far fetched to think that Mandzukic can lead the line while being productive on a regular basis.
Mandzukic was probably one of the best realistic options Juventus could have gotten this summer. And while he may not be a direct replacement for Carlos Tevez in terms of the kind of striker he is, we shouldn't expect him to be that, either. They're alike in some ways, but in totality, they're different strikers. And while they will only be naturally compared to one another because that's how life is, Mandzukic is part of this Juventus team, not that Juventus team.
So if Max has plenty of faith in Mandzukic, who am I to disagree with the guy who helped Juventus win the domestic double last season?
MARIO MANDZUKIC 2015-16 PROJECTION (SERIE A ONLY)