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Mario Mandzukic deserved better from Juventus

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Instead of getting a final goodbye, the grumpy Croatian left with no real farewell at all.

Juventus F.C. v Atletico de Madrid: International Champions Cup Friendly Photo by Ira L. Black/Corbis via Getty Images

Mario Mandzukic was a victim of circumstances.

On April 4, Mandzukic extended his contract by another season with Juventus, tying him to the club he so obviously loved to play for through the 2020-21 campaign.

On June 16, Juventus hired Maurizio Sarri as its new head coach, replacing the man who had previously won five Scudetti in a row (and one of Mandzukic’s biggest allies) Max Allegri.

On Christmas Eve 2019, Mandzukic was no longer a Juventus player.

This wasn’t some kind of fall from grace where a player does something that pretty much demands that they get rid of him the next chance that they have. There were no character issues. There was no “This guy is a transfer flop” distinction bestowed on Mandzukic or anything close to it. This was far from a player demanding the circumstance and forcing the clubs’ hand into something that they didn’t want to do because they thought they would be better off not having some kind of major problem in the dressing room and the like.

This was far from something that Mandzukic forced Juventus into doing nor something that he probably wanted them to do. This was Mandzukic suddenly becoming viewed as surplus goods because he didn’t fit into the new manager’s plans — even though he might be a helpful piece right about now — and then frozen out of the squad because the anticipated move in the summer never materialized.

Because of that, here we are today.

And because of where we are today, I can safely say this: Just like the headline says, Mario Manduzkic deserved better from the club he gave all he had to for the last four years.

Some might say that what resulted from Mandzukic rejecting offer after offer — reportedly from Bundesliga sides like Borussia Dortmund as well as Paris Saint-Germain before the summer transfer window closed — brought us to where we’ve basically been the last four months or so, basically waiting for Mandzukic to sign elsewhere because he certainly was never going to appear in a game for Juventus again. Mandzukic had the chance to play for bigger clubs than where he’s ended up (obviously), and he turned them down one by one in the same kind of fashion as other players rejected moves away from Juventus this past summer.

But, there’s also this fact: Mandzukic, rightfully, had just signed a contract extension all of two months before Sarri was hired as Juve’s new manager. He had a very nice salary and likely would have had to take a pay cut to go to some of the clubs that he ended up turning down. Because he was under contract with Juventus for the next two seasons, he had every right to choose to stay at a club that he had previously played a major role at and turn down the offers that were presented to him.

The thing that is still confusing in all of this is that it’s Mandzukic that ended up being the player that was frozen out of the squad for four months before finally landing a move away from Turin. It wasn’t Sami Khedira. It wasn’t somebody else like Emre Can — who himself seems destined for a January transfer if all the cards fall into place — or even Gonzalo Higuain (before he became an important piece to Sarri’s puzzle this season). It ended up being Mandzukic, who was as likable and respected by teammates and fans alike during his four years in Turin.

Instead, Mandzukic leaves the club in the same kind of fashion as Claudio Marchisio did — without much fanfare, without much notice or without much of anything, really.

That seems to be an issue with Juventus during the Andrea Agnelli years. For every goodbye like Gigi Buffon’s 18 months or so ago where everything seemed to be just as the old warhorse wanted them to be — yes, I know, we didn’t expect him to come back at the time — there’s a Marchisio or Mandzukic who simply deserved more of a sendoff than they got. Marchisio, in time, got a small acknowledgement from the Allianz Stadium crowd, but that was weeks after he had also left Juventus after falling out of the club’s plans and terminating the remainder of his contract.

Mandzukic was never going to get the kind of sendoff that a club legend like Buffon got simply because those are reserved for the most beloved of club figures, but he most certainly deserved to be treated better than he ultimately did at what proved to be the very end. As much as this sport has become a business that has Juventus spending nearly as much as anybody out there, the human element has been taken out of it piece by piece.

It’s because of all that where we found Mario Mandzukic, who gave so much to Juventus the past four seasons, training away from the first team because he simply didn’t fit into Sarri’s plans. It never should have gotten to that point, but it did and now here we are.