What does the summer hold for Mario Mandzukic

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One year on from scoring
the opening goal in a
Champions League final at
Wembley, Mario Mandzukic is contemplating life
away from Bayern Munich. There are not going to be
any fond farewells for the Croatian who is now likely
to have played his last game for the club. It has
been a sudden and irreversible decline.
While his team-mates partied in Munich’s
Marienplatz after winning the domestic double this
season, Mandzukic was some 700 kilometres away,
being pictured with flood victims in his hometown of
Slavonski Brod in Croatia. It was an illustration of
just how far his status has fallen in Munich and how
detached he had become from life at a club where,
just weeks earlier, he had been a key player. A
fruitful spell at Bayern brought a haul of 48 goals
and eight trophies but almost overnight he became
persona non grata.
It seems that two elements contributed to
Mandzukic’s indignant end to life at the Allianz
Arena. First, the signing of Robert Lewandowski put
the forward’s nose out of joint and, secondly, his
occasionally difficult attitude left him vulnerable to
the whims of coach Pep Guardiola.
Now there is no hope of redemption at Bayern, where
even his staunch supporter, CEO Karl Heinz
Rummenigge, who personally oversaw his signing
from Wolfsburg, admitted that the time had come to
say goodbye.
Once news of Lewandowski’s signing from Borussia
Dortmund broke in January, Mandzukic was said to
be determined to fight for his place. It has become
apparent over the past few weeks, though, that he
would be bound for the scrapheap. Over the course
of a successful season at domestic level, he did not
do an awful lot wrong. However, off-field issues with
Guardiola, combined with the Lewandowski transfer,
have all but brought Mandzukic’s two-year stay in
Bavaria to an abrupt end.
The shadow of Lewandowski has loomed large over
Mandzukic all season long. To some extent, it did
not matter if he scored three goals or 30 because
the Pole was always going to be first choice for
Bayern next season.
The tone from coach and boardroom changed over
the course of the campaign. It was not that long ago
that Pep was hailing Mandzukic as the best penalty-
box striker in the world and Rummenigge’s support
and admiration for him has evaporated. As for
honorary president Franz Beckenbauer, he could not
have been clearer when he suggested that
Mandzukic should “pack his bags” in anticipation of
Lewandowski’s arrival. The latest message from Pep,
meanwhile, was reported to be “good luck with your
new club.”
Mandzukic is currently in Austria, preparing to lead
his nation’s charge at the World Cup, and his
imminent transfer has caused such a furore that his
national-team manager, Niko Kovac, has banned all
agents from the team’s base lest it be a distraction
with Brazil on the horizon.

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