Reports in Croatia suggest Aston Villa are closing in on Croatian duo Anas Sharbini and Mario Mandzukic in a double transfer coup. Here is our rundown on striker Mandzukic who has hit double figures for league goals in each of the last four seasons.
Interest is growing in one of Croatia’s brightest young talents Mario Mandzukic but it is Aston Villa who are currently leading the queue. The Dinamo Zagreb striker was expected to move to Werder Bremen last summer but reports in the German and Croatian media suggested the deal fell through due to the player’s price-tag. However, the player is pushing for a move and Villa will have the funds if James Milner is sold to Manchester City. Martin O’Neill is also expected to sell the likes of Nigel Reo-Coker, Emile Heskey, Nicky Shorey and Steven Sidwell which will also boost the transfer kitty further.
The player’s agent Ivan Cvjetkovic has confirmed that the player wants out. He told German newspaper Bild, “We have told Dinamo that Mario wants to leave the club.”
Interest in England and in particular Aston Villa has been growing and the player revealed his ambition when he declared, “My goal is to join a strong club where I will continue to progress.”
Aston Villa are not the only club to have shown an interest as Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is a keen admirer although he is unlikely to make a bid following the capture of Marouane Chamakh.
Mandzukic finished as 4th top goal scorer in the Croatian league last season following 14 goals in 24 league appearances (all starts). This haul didn’t include any penalties and explains why he is so highly-rated in his homeland and now Europe. The previous season the Aston Villa target finished as top scorer with 16 goals in 28 league appearances (27 starts). He has started this season in the same vein with two goals in a 5-1 Champions League qualifying win over FC Koper this week. Aston Villa scouts were in attendance and could not have failed to be impressed with the big target man’s contribution.
The 24-year-old joined Dinamo in the summer of 2007 as a replacement for Arsenal bound Eduardo da Silva and has been a big success after scoring 42 goals in 81 league appearances (75 starts) for the current Croatian champions. He is seen as the ideal man to compliment the Aston Villa attack with his quality link-up player coupled with a great work-rate and physicality. John Carew and Gabriel Agbonlahor enjoyed impressive seasons but Mandzukic can play in both of their roles as well as wide or in the hole. Therefore, his signing would give Martin O’Neill a host of attacking options.
The 6 ft 1 striker was born in Slavonski Brod but started his career with German outfit Ditzingen before returning to his homeland to join NK Marsonia. Mandzukic did not feature in the first team before leaving to join NK Zagreb. In two seasons with the club, the tall striker scored 14 league goals in 51 appearances before Dinamo made their 1.3 million Euro move.
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Mandzukic has proven to be a huge success as Dinamo have won back to back league and cup doubles in his first two seasons with the club followed by his third title success last season. Having dominated the Croatian league, the Dinamo Zagreb striker is now looking to depart with Aston Villa looking the likeliest of options. Martin O’Neill is facing a very difficult summer in keeping his best players and recruiting new stars but after last season’s bitter disappointments, Villa are aiming to significantly strengthen. Mandzukic is renowned as an excellent finisher who is sharp in the box and is a regular member of the Croatian international squad.
The 24-year-old has only scored once in 13 international appearances and that goal came against England in the 4-1 home qualifying defeat back in September 2008. He’d been on the pitch just 6 minutes when he scored.
Man City were linked with the striker when Sven Goran Eriksson was in charge but it would seem that Villa Park will be the player’s next destination. He could prove to be the perfect foil for Gabriel Agbonlahor in a typical big man, small man pairing but he is also capable of playing the lone striker role or playing off a player like John Carew to good effect. His fee is expected to be in the region of £10m but with the financials constraints around Europe, a £8m offer may well be enough to bring Mandzukic to Aston Villa.
Do you like the look of Mario Mandzukic? Is he the type of player Villa needs? Let’s hear our views.