Atletico Madrid have completed the signing of striker Mario Mandzukic, with the Croatian signing a permanent deal, for four years, from Bayern Munich on Thursday.
DONE DEAL: Mario Mandzukić (28) has completed a transfer to Atlético Madrid. All the best, Mario!— FC Bayern English (@FCBayernEN) July 10, 2014
Although the fee has not been made public, the Daily Mail's Simeon Gholam reported the deal to be around the £17.5 million mark—a considerable outlay, but one which pales in comparison with the £32 million received for outgoing forward Diego Costa, who moved to Chelsea.
Though not overly alike in style, Mandzukic is a terrific signing for Atletico—and one which should help his team-mates, too—as they bid to retain their La Liga crown.
Reliance on Diego
Atletico's attack during 2013-14 was largely focused on allowing Costa to roam the front line, annoying defenders the country over and helping his midfielders come into play in the final third.
They were neat and concise in possession, able to create by passing and probing around the edge of the box but devastating on the counterattack.
Costa was a huge part of both, with his constant movement between defenders and his ability to drop deep, run at centre-backs or use his powerful running behind them to create space along the front line for others to exploit.
With the Spanish international scoring 27 goals during the league season, 35 percent of Atleti's total, there is certainly a big void to fill both in terms of hitting the net and in buildup play.
Not an aggressive fighter, not with huge acceleration and not known for consistently beating players in one-on-one scenarios, Mandzukic doesn't immediately seem like an obvious like-for-like replacement for Costa. And, in truth, he isn't—though that's not to say they don't have similarities which will benefit Mandzukic's new team-mates immeasurably.
Like Costa, Manduzkic works very hard, not just in occupying the centre-backs but also in pulling off down the channels, working the wide areas to help link play and in holding the ball up in all attacking areas. Indeed, Mandzukic played from the right side for both club and country for a significant time, with his team-first ethic a big plus point for boss Diego Simeone to work with.
First and foremost, though, he'll be expected to be a key goalscorer for Atleti, and the Croatian has proven more than capable of doing that: He scored 18 in 21 league starts for Bayern last term and 15 in 22 the season before.
Now 28 years old, he's in the prime of his career and has dealt comfortably with the expectation and consistency needed to shine at a big European club; Atletico will hold few fears for him, and if he settles into his new locale, team-mates such as Gabi, Koke and Arda Turan—all very good supporting players for a centre-forward—will help him star in Spain.
It's not just Costa who has departed since the La Liga title was lifted; David Villa has also flown the Atletico coop and playmaker Diego was not retained. To soften those departures, Angel Correa will be signed, a 19-year-old from San Lorenzo in Argentina—though he requires heart surgery and recovery before the move is finalised.
Mandzukic will naturally be the focal point of the attack, but further additions may yet be made as Atletico look to exploit big incoming fees and Champions League revenue.
It would not be a surprise to see them bring in a direct, very quick wide player to augment the technical and hardworking players already stocking the midfield; Mandzukic functions best when his team can get the ball forward to him quickly, inside the penalty area, where he can hold off defenders and make space for himself to finish off chances.
In that regard, the Atletico attack is perhaps looking more like reverting to type from when Radamel Falcao led the line two years ago rather than Costa last year, and if Mandzukic has anything like the impact of those two, Atleti should be in for another fantastic season at home and abroad.