5 Potential New Clubs for Mario Mandzukic
How quickly things can change.
Last year, Mario Mandzukic was a celebrated hero of Bayern Munich's historic treble-winning campaign. Now he is on the fringes of the club, frozen out by coach Pep Guardiola and seemingly on his way out.
Ahead of the German Cup final against Borussia Dortmund last week, Guardiola surprisingly dropped the Croatian from the squad.
The striker did not travel with the team to Berlin and instead flew back home to Croatia, even missing the team Cup celebrations in Munich the day after.
The falling-out was disciplinary in nature, according to a report from German outlet TZ, with the striker supposedly already having cleaned out his locker at the club.
With Robert Lewandowski also coming in and Claudio Pizarro's contract potentially extended, it is looking highly unlikely that Mandzukic will stick around, and there will not be a shortage of clubs that could use him.
Let's take a look at some of Mandzukic's potential next destinations if he really were to leave and why they would make sense for the Croatian international.
According to those reports, Chelsea could be ready to offer Luiz in exchange for the Croatian forward plus £15 million.
With the aging Daniel van Buyten, Dante and the injured Holger Badstuber, there is room for another center-back at Bayern, and Luiz's style of play would be ideally suited for Pep's system.
Chelsea, on the other hand, have a precarious striker situation. Demba Ba and Fernando Torres have not quite found their feet at Stamford Bridge, and Samuel Eto'o is past his prime.
Mandzukic could be the ideal antidote for the Blues' striker woes and inject the kind of energy and finishing they have lacked up front this past season.
According to the Daily Mail's Neil Ashton and Sami Mokbel, Arsenal coach Arsene Wenger will receive a contract extension and with it a £100 million transfer budget, and Mandzukic is one of the players he has his eyes set on.
Arsenal ended their nine-year trophy drought with their FA Cup win over Hull City last week and are now setting their sights on the Premier League.
Like Chelsea, Arsenal have struggled in the striker department in recent years. Olivier Giroud has been serviceable but inconsistent at times.
Mandzukic would provide Arsenal with the edge and bite they have lacked up front and have a similar impact as he had at Bayern, reinvigorating their attack while jelling seamlessly with the pass-happy style and philosophy of the team.
Van Gaal played a big part in establishing Bayern as a European superpower again when he took over in 2009 and helped develop young players like Thomas Mueller and Holger Badstuber.
The Dutch coach is expected to do the same with an aging and struggling United side that missed out on the Champions League and is facing the departure of several veteran players.
Mandzukic, who did not join Bayern until 2012 when Van Gaal had been gone over a year, could be an ideal foil for Wayne Rooney and allow the England striker to play in a deeper, more creative role.
The Croatian's heading ability and physically imposing style of play should also make for an easier transition to Premier League football.
Van Gaal might not get all of the players he desires from Bayern, but he has a good shot at Mandzukic after his falling-out.
Real Madrid are finally on the cusp of their elusive 10th Champions League title, but even that may not be enough to satiate the Galacticos faithful.
Despite their success in Europe, Madrid lost out in the league to crosstown rivals Atletico and have a revamped Barcelona side motivated to put their disappointing season behind them.
Although Luis Suarez has been reported to be their primary transfer target, per Rob Shepherd of the Daily Mail, Madrid may have to look elsewhere given his steep price and Liverpool's ascendancy. If a report from Jeremy Wilson of The Telegraph is to be believed, Arsenal are also adamant about bringing over Karim Benzema.
That would leave a spot open that Mandzukic would fit quite nicely. The Croatian is approaching his peak at age 28, has experience at the highest level and has fellow countryman Luka Modric at the club already.
It may seem unrealistic on the surface, but according to Ben Gladwell of ESPN FC, if the supposed interest in Torino's Ciro Immobile does not pan out, Dortmund could look within the Bundesliga for a solution.
Dortmund recently signed Hertha Berlin's Adrian Ramos but were in the market for a second forward following the departure of Robert Lewandowski.
Whether Bayern would sell to a direct competitor remains to be seen and is highly unlikely, but after the falling-out, is it really that far-fetched?
Mandzukic's work rate and ability to press relentlessly is perfect for Jurgen Klopp's system, and it would be the ideal way to cushion the transition away from Lewandowski.