After starting the summer mercato strongly, Juventus’ transfer dealings seem to be taking a strange twist.
The Bianconeri shipped Joao Cancelo to Manchester City in a swap deal that saw Danilo moving to Turin as well as €30mln entering the Old Lady’s bank account. While the Portugal international never really fulfilled his potential under Massimiliano Allegri, he was one of the players that were expected to thrive under Maurizio Sarri.
The Cancelo-Danilo swap didn’t go well with the Bianconeri tifosi, but Juve’s attempts to send Paulo Dybala to Manchester United in another exchange deal for Romelu Lukaku were considered by many to be pure madness.
However, a case could be made for the departures of both players, as despite being two of the supreme technicians in the squad, Dybala and Cancelo have also arguably been two of the most inconsistent players in the Juventus team last season. It is also no secret that the Bianconeri are after an elite centre-forward, with Sarri clearly unhappy with what he has at his disposal.
Being unhappy with a frontline containing the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Dybala, Gonzalo Higuain and Mario Mandzukic shows just how spoiled Sarri is when making his choices. However, with only CR7 certain of his place in the team, Juventus seem to be preparing a revolution in their offensive line.
Higuain has looked like a shadow of the player he was a few years ago, while Dybala has become a tactical misfit under Allegri and it seems that Sarri isn’t convinced of his role in the team either. However, the transfer rumours surrounding Mario Mandzukic have divided the fans.
While clearly not being a ‘Sarri type’ of player, Mandzukic has rarely disappointed when wearing the black and white jersey. The Croat was arguably the only player who managed to raise his game after Ronaldo’s arrival, as the majority of his colleagues in attack struggled.
Mandzukic finished the season as the Bianconeri’s second top scorer with 10 goals and six assists, despite several injuries and being played out of position multiple times. While Dybala scored the same number of goals, the Croat’s work rate and off the ball movement has proved to be instrumental for Juventus in the last few seasons.
It is no coincidence that both Mandzukic and Giorgio Chiellini were unavailable for the second leg against Ajax, as the lack of leadership proved to be fatal for Juve, as the Dutch champions completely outplayed and eventually eliminated Allegri’s team.
In April, the 33-year-old also extended his contract with the Bianconeri until 2021, which showcases just how dramatic the change at the club was after Sarri’s arrival. Unlike Dybala and Higuain, Mandzukic doesn’t command the hefty transfer fees that his Argentinian colleagues would.
Despite this, Mandzukic seems to be on his way out of the club, as Juventus look determined to ship out at least two of the aforementioned trio. While the Bianconeri are heavily linked with Mauro Icardi, the arrival of the ex-Inter captain doesn’t necessarily mean that Mandzukic wouldn’t find space in the team, especially if either of Dybala or Higuain are sold.
The big Croat just offers a different package in comparison to any of his colleagues, as his selfless approach, experience and aerial prowess make him a valuable option in multiple positions. Arguably Mandzukic’s strongest quality is his ability to bring the best out of his teammates, as his movement and know-how often create spaces in the opposition’s backline.
Often willing to sacrifice himself for the common good of the team, the veteran has become a pillar for Juventus in the last couple of seasons. You can regularly see him tracking back to the corner flag to make a tackle, then bombing up the other end to start the attack. He seems to be everywhere.
While the Croat cannot be as instrumental for Sarri’s Juventus as he once was under Max Allegri, his experience and grit would still allow him to be an important part of the team.
In a modern football world where everyone is becoming more and more selfish, it would be safe to say that players like Mandzukic are a dying breed. Considering how hard it is to find natural leaders in the modern game, it would be a huge mistake for the Bianconeri to let go of their big man so easily.