Mario Mandzukic has slammed Pep Guardiola's reign at Bayern Munich, saying his time with the German champions "was twice as good when Jupp Heynckes was there."
The Croatian striker was sold to Atletico Madrid in the summer after one season under Guardiola's rule. Now enjoying life in the Spanish capital with five goals in 10 appearances across La Liga and the Champions League, per WhoScored.com, Mandzukic has blasted Pep for an apparent lack of respect.
The striker taunted Guardiola with a comparison to his former treble-winning boss in an interview with Sportske Novosti, as reported by Football Espana:
Guardiola disappointed me because he didn’t treat me with respect and it was twice as good when Jupp Heynckes was there. Would I sit down with Guardiola for a coffee? That is something that’s not going to happen. In my professional life I don’t have to like everyone but if I feel a negative energy coming from a person then I try to avoid them.
Mandzukic believes he "didn't deserve to be treated like that after giving everything for Bayern" throughout his two seasons with the club. He admitted he "struggled to adapt" to Guardiola's way, but indicated his willingness to make it work wasn't matched by the boss.
"I realised there was no future for me there so I resigned myself to leaving the club and had time to choose a new destination," said Mandzukic, as reported by Football Espana.
Amazingly, the 28-year-old forward even suggested Guardiola didn't play him in the DFB Pokal final "because he didn't want me to finish as leading goalscorer." Mandzukic believes this highlights the Spaniard's "lack of respect" and concluded that it "would have made much more sense if he had told me I didn't fit into his style of play."
Such strong words from Mandzukic are bound to get people talking. The powerful striker proved himself useful last season and offered Bayern an aerially-efficient, physically dominant attacking threat, perhaps best shown during his substitute performance away at Manchester United. With Robert Lewandowski arriving on a free, however, Mandzukic's attributes were no longer unique.
Bundesliga specialist Clark Whitney highlighted a similar occurrence with another of Pep's former players:
The manager's recent altercation with fourth official Bibiana Steinhaus highlights his penchant for becoming unnecessarily aggressive, as reported by Kit Holden of the Mail Online.
Guardiola fully implements his own rule with little regard for outside ideas when building a team. This made him hugely successful at Barcelona, where he was fortunate to have the era-defining talents of Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta and Xavi to call on for his entire tenure.
Players aren't so set in stone at the Allianz Arena, meaning Guardiola's influences have become more obvious. His decision to bring in Thiago Alcantara, Pepe Reina, Juan Bernat and Xabi Alonso—four Spaniards who most likely wouldn't have made the switch without Pep's influence—highlights a manager who is willing to change the club's public image to facilitate his own ideas.
Guardiola's self-belief is such that, if Bayern figures deem his methods as incorrect, he would have "no problem" leaving to find an alternative club. Expectations around the 43-year-old are always high due to him landing so much success in his first managerial role but an unwillingness to adapt subtly appears to threaten his longevity in Germany.
Mandzukic hinted at this. Guardiola has opted to deep-root the 2013 Champions League winners, rather than embed key figures into his team (Toni Kroos, particularly). Whether this turns out to be successful in Europe—the yard stick with which Bayern's accomplishments must be measured—still needs to be proven.
There's no doubt the manager is prone to spells of tunnel vision, but Mandzukic's future was doomed from the minute Lewandowski penned his contract with the Bavarian side. The forcing out of Heynckes set the Croat's departure in motion, leaving Guardiola with a continent-dominating team to sculpt and repackage in his own image.
As noted with Zlatan Ibrahimovic's damning comments of the former Blaugrana boss, Guardiola is more than willing to sacrifice players to satisfy his own vision. Whether his aggressive style works for Bayern—a club fuelled by its past legends and history—is likely to shape the manager's future path, as elite teams may be put off such an unswerving approach.