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Mandžukić to Fiorentina makes no sense, but that’s never stopped the Viola

The veteran striker is an undeniably useful player, but the context is completely wonky.

Al-Sailiya v Al Duhail - QNB Stars League
Photo by Simon Holmes/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Okay, fine, we’ll discuss these Mario Mandžukić rumors. The 34-year-old Croatian just terminated his contract with Qatari outfit Al-Duhail after 8 appearances and 2 goals, but he’s not retiring; he’s looking for a return to Europe. Benevento (who are trying to build the world’s best FIFA 13 team, having snapped up Loïc Remy last week) has been linked as a possible landing pad, as has Fiorentina.

Because my articles listing reasons why transfers will or won’t happen tend to be perfectly spot on, I’m going to do another one for Mandžukić. I’ll start with the reasons he’d be a good fit and finish with the reasons Daniele Pradè should bolt the other direction.

The Yes Column

Even at 34, nobody doubts Mandžukić’s drive or commitment: the man has always played like he’s trying to avenge his parents’ murder. Combined with his well-known leadership on the pitch and in the dressing room, he’d doubtless stamp out the frustrated, me-first attitude that seems to be cropping up among some of the Viola attackers and instill a hungrier mentality.

Even at 34, his fitness is still probably enough to keep him sprinting in the 97th minute, so there’s no immediate concern there. His famous aerial ability, combined with his work rate off the ball, would also help this attack immensely, as Mandžukić would create space for others with his running and be a fantastic target for crosses from the likes of Franck Ribery and Dalbert. He’d also be an excellent option to win knockdowns for guys like Federico Chiesa and Gaetano Castrovilli running off him.

And speaking of Ribery, he and Mandžukić go way back, having spent two seasons together at Bayern Munich. While the reports of the Frenchman’s desire to leave Florence were obviously exaggerated (thanks, Sebastien Frey), bringing another familiar face, even one as threatening as Super Mario’s, can only help settle him in further.

Finally, the Viola under Rocco Commisso have shown a penchant for signing once world-class but currently declining veterans, having grabbed Ribery, Martín Cáceres, and Kevin-Prince Boateng already and been heavily linked to Daniele de Rossi, Radja Nainggolan, and Thiago Silva. Mandžukić fits that pattern perfectly.

The No Column

Okay. Let’s start with the age. Yes, the man is fitter than maybe anyone on the team, but you don’t want to sink too much into a guy who’s 34. To paraphrase Branch Rickey, it’s better to be a year early ditching a player than a year late. It’s mighty hard to imagine Mandžukić remaining an effective player for very long since so much of his ability is based on his non-stop running.

Second, he’s going to need a big contract. While his stint in Qatar should have him financially set for life, even without taking into account his massive earnings from his previous stops, he was making €3.5 million at his last stop in Europe and would likely want a big sum as a Bosman signing. Even if it’s just for a year, that’s a lot of money.

The next issue is that he’s a Juventus legend, having spent 4 years in Turin and scored twice against Fiorentina. While I’m generally not too fussed about a player’s previous stops—these guys are professionals and don’t take in the fabled “club DNA” most of the time—Mandžukić was one of the pillars of that team. I’m not sure there’s a powerful degobbozation process to make him palatable to the fans.

Next, and maybe it’s just me, I’m awfully leery of any ballyhooed striker named Mario who comes to Florence after a reasonably successful stint at Bayern. I know that Mandžukić isn’t Mario Gómez, but it’s hard not to feel a little bit spooked.

The real issue, though, is that Fiorentina already have more strikers than they know what to do with. Dušan Vlahović, Patrick Cutrone, and now Christian Kouamé are all useful players at worst with the potential to be very good, and they’re all 22 or younger. Throw in Federico Chiesa, Franck Ribery, and Riccardo Sottil, and you’ve got a lot of players for very few positions on the pitch. There’s absolutely no reason to add a guy who’s going to block the development of those guys for another year.

Mario Mandžukić is a fantastic player who’s done pretty much everything in his career and could probably add something for Fiorentina, but his presence would prove more negative than positive. With respect, it’s probably best to let him sign with Benevento if he wants a return to Italy.