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back Bundesliga | 28.01.2014 15:26:22

Ten things about Mario Mandzukic

  • Mario Mandzukic has been a huge success since moving to Bayern from Wolfsburg in 2012
  • The Croatian played a starring role in the Reds' quadruple success in 2012/13, netting 15 league goals as well as opening the scoring in the 2-1 victory over Dortmund in the Champions League final
  • Mandzukic had previously spent two seasons at Wolfsburg, where former coach Felix Magath said on his arrival in the dugout: "I can't understand why he wasn't being played before"
  • The 27-year-old appeared for Croatia at UEFA Euro 2012 and scored three goals

Munich - Mario Mandzukic's first season at record title-holders FC Bayern Munich was nothing short of spectacular.

Establishing himself as the number one striker in the squad, he played an integral part in the Bavarians winning an historic quadruple, with perhaps his most important contribution being the opening goal in the UEFA Champions League final victory over Borussia Dortmund. He has continued his good form this term under Pep Guardiola, netting ten goals in the first half of the 2013/14 campaign.

bundesliga.com presents ten things you might not have known about one of Europe's finest all-round forwards...

Roots

Mandzukic was born in the small Croatian city of Slavonski Brod on 21 May 1986. Lying directly on the border with Bosnia, the city came under immediate danger after the outbreak of the Bosnian war in 1992, prompting a decision from Mandzukic’s father Mato that the family had to leave the country. "The only thing that mattered to me was my family's safety. There were people being killed in outside our front door. We couldn't stay there any longer," Mato later told spox.de.

Early steps

The family ended up in Ditzingen, near Stuttgart, and it was there that Mario's enthusiasm and talent for football became apparent. At the age of six he joined local outfit TSF Ditzingen, as did his father, a defender by trade, who played with the likes of future Germany international and current VfB Stuttgart sporting director Fredi Bobic (pictured). "Unfortunately his best years were behind him when I watched him play," jokes Mario of his father's brief career at the club, then in the fourth tier Oberliga Baden-Württemberg.

Back home

In 1996 the family were denied permission to extend their stay in Germany, resulting in a return to the Balkans, where hostilities had fortunately come to an end. Mandzukic continued his footballing progression in his homeland at NK Marsonia, before moving to Croatia's capital to play first for NK Zagreb and then the city's powerhouse club Dinamo Zagreb.

Return to Germany

After scoring 52 goals in 110 games for Dinamo, scouts from across Europe were interested in poaching the powerful striker, but Germany remained his preferred destination. Werder Bremen came close to sealing a deal, but it was VfL Wolfsburg, then coached by former England manager Steve McClaren (l.), that won the race for his signature in the summer of 2010. "We need players in our team who are flexible and I'm delighted Mario is here," said McClaren (l.) at his presentation in Wolfsburg.

A good year

Mandzukic became the focal point of the Wolfsburg attack after the departure of Edin Dzeko in January 2011, and the 2011/12 season proved a breakthrough year in his career. 12 league goals, ten assists and finishing joint-top scorer at UEFA Euro 2012 convinced German giants Bayern to come calling. Club president Uli Hoeneß recalls, "Karl-Heinz Rummenigge called me. He said the club should sign Mandzukic and I liked the idea a lot." The transfer was sealed just days after Croatia exited the tournament in Poland and the Ukraine.

Super Mario II

Mandzukic's main competitor in Bavaria was his namesake Mario Gomez (l.), scorer of 45 goals for club and country in 2011/12. However, an injury to Gomez opened the door for Mandzukic to lead the Bayern attack, an opportunity he made the most of. Scoring on his debut in the Supercup against Dortmund, he kept Gomez on the bench for much of the season and finished with 15 goals. Another in the Champions League final was his crowning glory in a memorable, quadruple-winning season.
© Imago

Role models

Mandzukic first met compatriot and international team-mate Ivica Olic (r.) when they both played at NK Marsonia, and considers him an inspiration. Seven years his senior, Olic went on to represent Hertha Berlin and Hamburger SV, before joining Bayern in 2009. The players swapped clubs in 2012, with Olic moving north to Wolfsburg. "I know he was loved by the fans here," said Mandzukic when he arrived at Bayern. "He always got stuck in and gave it his best. I aim to follow in his footsteps."

Connection to Germany

Spending four years as a child in Baden-Württemberg has made Mandzukic feel especially settled in Germany. He declined offers from England and France to move to Wolfsburg in 2010, and again favoured staying in the country when he decided to join Bayern in 2012. "Germany is my second home, which is why I wanted to stay here," he said at his unveiling as an FC Bayern player.

Philosophy

Strikers are normally judged on goals, but Mandzukic (l.) is able to do much more than just find the net. He creates chances for team-mates, chases down lost causes and never gives defenders a moment's rest. Aside from grabbing the headlines for finding the target, what seems to excite him just as much is the competitive aspect of football. "For me, the stadium is like a modern gladiator arena," he says. "When I go out onto the pitch, I want to fight, I want to go into challenges and I obviously want to win."
© Imago

Personal

Mandzukic leads a rather quiet life away from the media spotlight with his girlfriend Ivana and dog Lene, whose names he often bears on his football boots. He also has a sister named Ivana, who moved back to Germany in 2007 and travels to Munich every week to watch her brother play.




Compiled by Bernie Reeves

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