Can mooted Mario Mandzukic move improve Juve?
Italian press are reporting that a sensational Juventus (14/1 with Coral to win the Champions League) swoop for Atletico Madrid marksman Mario Mandzukic, worth a rumoured £12.8m, is all but done, with the Croatia goal machine to potentially arrive in Turin having spent just one term at the Vicente Calderon.
Is the former Bayern Munich hitman really the man to rejuvenate and refresh the Old Lady’s attack, though, as Massimiliano Allegri continues to try to evolve and adapt Antonio Conte’s serial title-winning team in his own image?
The Croatian attacker has come under fire recently, despite racking up 20 goals in 43 appearances for the Spanish capital club, with criticism that the striker has not adapted his all-round play to the Atleti way, and could be surplus to requirements.
Coach Diego Simeone’s recent statement on the sharpshooter’s future was hardly a ringing endorsement either, as the Argentine told media: “Mandzukic? Who goes and who stays is not up to me. The club will decide what is best.”
Juve, meanwhile, undoubtedly have designs on returning to the pinnacle of European power, and came painstakingly close in their Champions League final against Barcelona, but had to make do with capturing a domestic double, including their fourth successive Scudetto.
While the Turin team’s dominance on Italian soil is nothing short of spectacular, Serie A will not always be such a simple capture, and the Old Lady must make sure their foray to a European final becomes a regular occurrence, not an anomaly.
Key to this is not allowing complacency to slip into domestic duties, with important protagonists likely to seek greater challenges elsewhere should the Old Lady become but flat-track bullies and a big fish in a small pond.
Despite his stock not currently being the highest, Atleti hitman Mandzukic remains a star name on the world stage, only recently bagging a goal for the Blazers against Italy in Euro 2016 qualifying, and one who could bring a different dimension to Juve, which is important if they are not to stagnate under Allegri, who has a history of second season syndrome.
Watch what Mandzukic can bring to Turin:
Most importantly, Mandzukic can be a high-profile replacement for the Italian giants, should last season’s top scorer Carlos Tevez return to homeland Argentina with Boca Juniors as expected.
Fans and pundits could be looking at a vastly different Juve next season, with midfield trio Andrea Pirlo, Paul Pogba and Arturo Vidal all subject to transfer speculation, so the Serie A champions need to make swift and decisive transfer moves this summer to ensure any departures do not upset the apple cart.
Exciting acquisitions such as Mandzukic, and young starlet Paulo Dybala, a tricky and adaptable Argentine with a nose for goal, who looks certain to be Tevez’s true successor in Turin, could also convince the likes of Pogba to give an assault on Europe another go.
Few would argue that Tevez is the greater footballing talent, but the Albiceleste international was all-but invisible in the Berlin Champions League final, and Mandzukic’s record of 46 goals across all competitions over the past two terms compares well to Tevez’s tally of 50 strikes in the same time for Juve.
Considering Mandzukic was forever playing second-fiddle at the Allianz Arena, and has also supposedly struggled in Spain, should he be relied upon to lead the line in Turin, will no doubt deliver a regular supply of goals.
Not as dynamic as Tevez, Mandzukic may not be able to match the Argentine’s tireless exuberance but is equally hardworking, while Juve will have an abundance of options in attack instead able to run the channels and provide fluidity.
More likely, any Mandzukic move would mean curtains for Basque frontman Fernando Llorente, with the 29-year-old a clear upgrade on the Spanish sharpshooter in current form. A target man who can make the ball stick, a point of reference for Pirlo’s sublime passes, and an aerial threat able to bully belligerent backlines, the Croatian would be the proven predator to Dybala and Morata’s potential.
If Juve are to challenge on all fronts, and keep faith with Allegri’s diamond formation, diversity among their dangermen is a must to prevent predictability. Goals win games and, despite all the criticism aimed at 60-capped Mandzukic, he boasts a record that demands attention. Should Allegri use him as a focal point and not a foil, the Blazers hitman could finally find a fitting home.