Has Mario Mandzukic Lived Up to His €19M Juventus Price Tag?

Sam LoprestiFeatured ColumnistMay 19, 2016

Mario Mandzukic's stats aren't gaudy, but he has been incredibly valuable for Juventus this season.
Mario Mandzukic's stats aren't gaudy, but he has been incredibly valuable for Juventus this season.MARCO BERTORELLO/Getty Images

Juventus entered the 2015-16 season with a totally remade attack. Carlos Tevez had gone home to Argentina to finish his career at his boyhood club, Boca Juniors. Fernando Llorente, who had fallen behind Alvaro Morata in the pecking order up top and was looking for more playing time, returned to La Liga with Sevilla.

Now the season is drawing to an end, observers can begin to judge just how successful their replacements were. On Monday, Bleacher Report's Adam Digby ably explained why Paulo Dybala—the successor to Tevez—fully justified his €32 million transfer fee. But what about Llorente's replacement, Mario Mandzukic?

The Croatia international came to Juve from Atletico Madrid last summer and cost the team €19 million. Has he been worth it? The answer certainly isn't the unqualified yes that can be said of Dybala, but when you look at the totality of his work this year, you can see the 29-year-old has lived up to the money.

Mandzukic has scored goals everywhere he's been. In two seasons with Bayern Munich, he scored 39 times between the Bundesliga and UEFA Champions League. Last year, he had 17 combined goals in league and European play for Atletico Madrid.

If you simply glance at his statistics for this season, it looks as though the's declined. He scored only 10 times in the league and added only two in the Champions League and one in the Supercoppa Italiana. He didn't score in the league until late October and went through a 10-game stretch in all competitions without scoring at the turn of the year.

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Mandzukic's finish against Fiorentina secured a critical win.
Mandzukic's finish against Fiorentina secured a critical win.MARCO BERTORELLO/Getty Images

But the value of Mandzukic's season comes not in quantity but in quality. Among those 13 goals were some of the most important Juventus scored all season.

In August, he broke the deadlock against Lazio in the Supercoppa for his first goal in a Juventus shirt, ensuring the Bianconeri started the year off with silverware. His next goal, more than a month later, helped give the team a much-needed shot in the arm.

Trailing their Champions League opener at Manchester City 1-0, Mandzukic deftly directed a long pass from Paul Pogba past Joe Hart to even the score, setting the stage for Morata's incredible curling winner 11 minutes later.

His next strike equalized Juve's Serie A game against Empoli after the Azzurri had taken a surprise early lead. The Bianconeri ended up winning 3-1, consolidating the momentum gained from their last-second win over Torino the week before and embarking on the incredible run that brought them back from their horrific start to the season.

As the season wore on, he kicked into gear. Finally overcoming an early-season infection that kept him in pain for months, he closed the calendar year of 2015 with five goals and an assist in five games, earning WhoScored.com's man-of-the-match award twice.

Highlighting that span was a crunch game against Fiorentina. With Juventus looking to close the gap on the Viola and claw their way into the top four, Mandzukic's pure poacher's finish on a loose ball in the box broke a 1-1 tie in the 80th minute. Juve eventually won 3-1, moving up the table at a key moment in the season.

After suffering through that dry spell at the beginning of 2016, Mandzukic scored big goals in both of Juve's most difficult matches of the run-in, away games against AC Milan and Fiorentina.

Apart from his goals, Mandzukic's work rate also stood out. He tirelessly and selflessly got back to press opponents when Juve were defending. His work at the top of the formation was an unsung factor in Gianluigi Buffon's record-setting run of 974 minutes without conceding a goal.

Mandzukic may not have had the splashy numbers and highlight-reel moments of his strike partner, but his contribution has been vital. His statistics may not have been what you expect from someone who cost just shy of €20 million, but the totality of his performance went far beyond simple counting stats.

Mandzukic has proved himself worthy of both his transfer fee and the Juventus shirt, and the team will benefit from his presence as long as he's in Turin.