In July, Mario Mandzukic wrote his name in Croatian folklore by propelling his nation to their first World Cup final via an extra-time winner against England. His career has consisted around performing on the biggest stage and it was fitting that Mandzukic delivered one of the biggest sporting moments for Croatia during that famous summer in Russia.
Mandzukic was somewhat of a late bloomer and only dared to tread outside his native Croatia at 25 years of age. He established himself as a cult hero at Dinamo Zagreb, scoring 63 goals in 128 appearances.
He’s gone onto become an endowed striker across Europe with VfL Wolfsburg, Bayern Munich, Atletico Madrid and Juventus. His tally of 206 goals underlines his quality and he’s cemented an immortal legacy in Croatia by becoming the second-highest all-time national goal scorer.
His physical supremacy combined with his intelligent ability to discover prime goal scoring opportunities has designed an exceptional career. He may not be the first name on many people’s tongues when discussing the greatest strikers in recent years, but he’s a respected figure and is remembered for his accomplishments during his career.
The 2018 World Cup gifted him with the platform to wish his national inhabitants farewell and he capped his final international tournament in majestic style. Not only did he score the decisive goal to guide them to the final in Moscow, but he also scored a valuable equalizer in the earlier knockout clash against Denmark and a late consolation against France in the final itself.
The Surge of a Late Bloomer
Mandzukic was a late bloomer and plied his trade in his native Croatia until he was 25 years of age. He started out at NK Marsonia until moving onto NK Zagreb to play in the third tier of Croatian football.
Eduardo had been the first-choice striker at Dinamo Zagreb, but joined English outfit Arsenal in the summer of 2007. The Croatian powerhouse selected Mandzukic as his replacement and spent €1.3 million to lure him to the Stadion Maksimir.
Dinamo Zagreb supporters adored their new target man and Mandzukic became a cult hero for The Blues. He scored 63 goals during his three-year spell in Zagreb and won three successive domestic league titles.
Edin Dzeko spearheaded VfL Wolfsburg’s attack upon his arrival and Steve McClaren rightfully preferred the Bosnian international at the time. Mandzukic’s goal scoring capabilities were squandered during his debut season and he was predominantly used as a substitute or deployed as a left midfielder.
However, Dzeko joined Manchester City just six months later and Felix Magath succeeded McClaren in February 2011. He’d failed to score a single goal under McClaren, but finished the campaign with eight goals in the Bundesliga and established himself as the first-choice forward.
Wolfsburg witnessed his goal scoring prowess once again during the following season, as Mandzukic proved he wasn’t just a flash in the pan. He finished the 2011/12 season with a respectable tally of 12 goals and further enhanced his reputation by scoring three goals for Croatia at Euro 2012.
He established himself as the first-choice forward at VfL Wolfsburg, despite a turbulent beginning to life in the Bundesliga, and earned a big move to Bayern Munich, after scoring three goals for Croatia at Euro 2012.
Rise to Prosperity