The croatian Mario Mandzukic In the last hours he became a new Milan player and the pair with the Swede Zlatan Ibrahimovic promises a lot.
The 34-year-old striker arrives in Italy with the pass in his possession from Qatari football – without many minutes on the pitch – and signed for a one-year loan at the Rossoneri, with an option to renew for another season.
But beyond his 214 goals, his physical bearing and his exquisite technique, there is something that distinguishes “Super Mario” from the rest. Your mentality. That which formed surviving the Balkan war (1991-2001).
Mario Mandzukic defending the colors of Juventus in Turin. Photo: AFP.
He grew up with death, desolation, and barbarism on his doorstep. The one that left the war that destroyed his native Yugoslavia. For this reason he had to emigrate at the age of six, together with his family, first to Bosnia and then to Germany.
“The only thing that mattered to me was the safety of my family. In front of the house door they killed people. You couldn’t stay there longer“said Mandzukic’s father, recalling those moments. The young footballer was only able to return to his hometown, Slavonski Brod, at 16.
The memory of the bombings that mutilated that town lives on in the memory of the now Milan striker, but also in the occasional local mausoleum, such as the one that remembers the 28 children murdered in May 1992. The trace of human misery is still valid . Paradoxically Slavonski Brod It was also one of the largest Syrian refugee camps on the Balkan route at this time.
Mario Mandzukic with a shocking blow to his face, while playing for Atlético de Madrid. Photo: EFE.
Mario Mandzukic never hid his scars. His personality is tough and quiet. And he used his experience as a motor to explode in football. First in the Croatian second division, playing for NK Marsonia, and then in the Croatian giant, Dinamo Zagreb.
In 2010 “Super Mario” returned to Germany, that place that welcomed him in adversity, to play first at Wolfsburg and, after two seasons, at Bayern Munich. The rest is history.
The 1.90 meter forward knew how to earn a place in the big game through goals and good technique. After the epic at the Bavarian club, he went through Atlético de Madrid, Juventus, Al-Duhail and now the return to Serie A, to play for Milan.
But he also broke it with his team, being twice the footballer of the year in his country and reaching the final of the 2018 World Cup in Russia with Croatia, something unprecedented until that moment.
However, it also had its ups and downs. “He and I didn’t start off right. The first day we saw that we were not going to be friends, that there was no good vibes between us, “said Josep Guardiola about the Croatian striker in the book “Herr Pep” by Martí Perarnau when we have the information. And he added: “But I tell you that there is no one better than him, no one who tries harder, who finishes the games more broken and that he has given everything in the field. It is the best for this reason. The one who sacrifices the most for the whole. In my years as a coach, he hasn’t had a center forward like him. No one has been better than him for the reasons I have told you. ”
No smiles, no statements. Always with the same look. The one that was marked by his childhood in the war. The one that was marked on his skin. “What does not kill me makes me stronger“says his latest tattoo in Hebrew. Conflictive with his coaches, but also loyal.
Mario Mandzukic returns with that thirst for revenge to Italy. The same that allowed him to survive the worst of humanity. The same one that allowed him to succeed in big football. It will be his second time in Serie A. With Juventus he won four local tournaments, three Italian Cups and two Super Cups. In addition, he was a two-time Champions League finalist. In Milan they are already smiling with the new incorporation, and even Ibrahimovic He came out to declare about his happiness: “Yes, I have it, because now we are two to scare our rivals”. The Swede already has someone to fight shoulder to shoulder in the next battles.