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Player profile: Manchester United and Arsenal target Mario Mandzukic

All you need to know about the man who could save David Moyes' season or rescue Arsene Wenger's striking crisis

Samuel Stevens
Monday 06 January 2014 14:15 GMT
Mario Mandzukic, an old-fashioned target man, could be on his way to England
Mario Mandzukic, an old-fashioned target man, could be on his way to England (Reuters)

As the January transfer window hurtles towards its epicentre one name in particular, that of Bayern Munich's Mario Mandzukic, stands out as a likely candidate to be involved in the month's biggest deal.

Linked with a host of European clubs throughout his career, including Manchester United and Arsenal, the 6ft 2in forward has been the leading man at the German and European champions since his arrival in 2012.

With the signing of Robert Lewandowski casting doubt over his future at the Allianz Arena, it didn't take long before news of his possible availability began to permeate into the gossip columns.

Born in 1986, Mandzukic's career started when he was 18-years-old at NK Marsonia before swiftly moving to fellow Croatian outfit NK Zagreb. After a steady few years at the Stadion u Kranjčevićevoj, his first break came when Dinamo Zagreb parted with €1.3m for his services.

Replacing Eduardo, who had just left Croatian football for Arsenal, he quickly wrote his name into Dinamo folklore after scoring twice in extra-time against Dutch side Ajax to help his new club squeeze into the Uefa Cup group stages.

Finishing the season with almost as many yellow cards as goals, he was proving to be an imposing figure at the top of their starting eleven.

A year later he was subject to a €12m bid from Werder Bremen but Dinamo stood firm and rejected the offer for their leading striker, now with sixteen goals to his name, for another season.

His time spent playing in his homeland wasn't always so enjoyable, however, as a poor display against Anderlecht in the newly-renamed Europe League earned him a €100,000 - the first time the club had ever fined a player for such an offense.

Following an emphatic performance, as captain, during Dinamo's 6-0 dismantling of HNK Rijeka, Mandzukic then pledged to reject any offers thrown at him and live 'his dream' of captaining the side for the foreseeable future.

Later that year, though, he completed a €7m switch to Wolfsburg where he was predominantly utilised as a left-sided winger - and as an impact substitute - under former England manager Steve McClaren.

Preferring to play Edin Džeko on his own, Mandzukic's fortunes soon improved under McClaren once Manchester City has snared his Bosnian teammate in January 2011.

Eventually breaking through into the side, it wasn't long until he climbed the Bundesliga scoring charts to help Wolfsburg avoid relegation to the second tier.

The next summer brought more seasonal change, however, as Mandzukic attracted the interest of Bayern Munich. Scoring his first competitive goal for Die Bayern against reigning champions Borussia Dortmund, to win the German Supercup, he had made his mark almost immediately.

Considered to be worth €13m and the Croatian Footballer of the Year for 2012, his first Champions League goal soon followed against Arsenal in the round of sixteen before adding another in the quarter-finals verses Juventus.

It is his strike against Dortmund, in the final at Wembley, which is most memorable though as he and Arjen Robben gave Bayern their first European triumph for over a decade.

Despite struggling early on this season after Pep Guardiola changed Bayern's formation from the 4-2-3-1 they had used previously under Jupp Heynckes to a new 4-1-4-1 style, Mandzukic has already netted on thirteen occasions and would be a fine acquisition for any English club looking for a powerful target man.

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