Mario Manduki, a former Juventus striker, has announced his retirement from professional football at the age of 35. With 508 appearances and 197 club goals, as well as 89 Croatia caps and 33 international goals, the Croatian retires with a total of 508 appearances and 197 club goals.
On Instagram, he announced his retirement, writing:
“Dear little Mario, you have no idea how you will feel in the world of football until you put these sneakers on for the first time.
“You will score goals on the largest stages and with the biggest clubs, and you will win the biggest trophies.
“By proudly representing your country, you will help to write Croatian sport history.
“You will succeed because you will surround yourself with wonderful people: teammates, coaches, fans, and family members, as well as agents and friends who will always be there for you.
“You will be eternally thankful to each and every one of them! Above all, you will succeed because you will constantly put up your best effort.
“At the end of the day, you’ll be most proud of this. You will make many sacrifices, but you will know that it was all worth it because of the incredible experiences you will have.
“You will know when it is time to retire, when it is time to put these shoes away, and you will have no regrets.” Football will always be a part of your life, but you’ll be excited to move on to the next chapter.
“Enjoy yourselves! Mario, you’re the big one. P.S. If you’re playing in the World Cup against England, be ready around the 109th minute.”
The Croatian striker was never very prolific, scoring only 197 goals in 508 games, but he still managed to play for some of Europe’s top clubs and enjoy a lot of success.
Manduki was purchased by Croatian powerhouse Dinamo Zagreb for €1.3 million in the summer of 2007 as a substitute for their Arsenal-bound star striker Eduardo da Silva. Upon his arrival, he quickly established himself in the starting eleven, primarily as the second striker.
Over the next three seasons, the striker established himself as one of the club’s finest players, scoring 53 goals and assisting on three Croatian League titles and two Croatian Cups. He was frequently connected with a number of European clubs during his time in Zagreb, and his club rejected down a number of offers.
Manduki eventually signed for VfL Wolfsburg in 2010 for a fee estimated to be about €7 million. When he first arrived at the club, he was primarily considered as a backup striker to Edin Deko. When Deko joined City in 2011, he quickly established himself as the club’s primary striker.
He scored 20 goals in 56 appearances during his two years at Wolfsburg, establishing himself as one of the club’s top players and soon becoming a fan favorite owing to his goalscoring abilities and attitude.
Following his great performance at UEFA Euro 2012 in Ukraine and Poland, and his outstanding form for Wolfsburg in the Bundesliga, Manduki signed a deal with Bundesliga heavyweights Bayern Munich in June 2012 for a transfer fee of €13 million, subject to a medical examination.
Manduki was an instant hit in Munich, scoring nine goals in his first 11 Bundesliga appearances. Bayern would win the Champions League, two Bundesligas, two DFB Pokals, a Club World Cup, and a UEFA Super Cup with his 48 goals in 88 games.
Atletico Madrid spent €21 million to lure the Croatian to the Spanish city due to his remarkable resume. He had an immediate impact despite just spending a season in Madrid, scoring 20 goals in 43 appearances and helping Atletico win the Supercopa de Espana.
Manduki’s performances at Atletico Madrid were so impressive that Serie A champions Juventus announced on June 22, 2015 that he had signed a four-year contract with the club for a cost of €19 million.
By far his most productive and successful period was at Juventus. In 162 appearances over five seasons with the club, he scored 44 goals and 17 assists. Although this may not appear to be a large number, the amount of silverware he received more than compensated for his lack of goals. He earned four league titles, two Super Coppa Italia wins, and three Coppa Italia titles during his career at Juventus.
His goal against Real Madrid in the 2017 Champions League Final is certain to be remembered by the returning striker. He equalized in the 27th minute, just seven minutes after Cristiano Ronaldo gave Real Madrid the lead with a goal. Manduki chested down a Gonzalo Higuain ball and hooked it over his shoulder from 15 yards, arcing over Keylor Navas in the net.
The goal was hailed as one of the best ever scored in a Champions League final, with comparisons to Zinedine Zidane’s strike for Real Madrid in the 2002 final, however Juventus were lost 4–1. Manduki’s bicycle kick goal against Real Madrid was named UEFA Goal of the Season for the 2016–17 season.
Manduki was dropped by new Juventus manager Maurizio Sarri in the summer of 2019, as he was left out of the manager’s plans. As a result, he, along with colleague Emre Can, was left out of Juventus’ Champions League squad. He agreed to join Qatari side Al-Duhail on December 24 after failing to make a single appearance for the club during the 2019–20 season.
Despite winning the Qatari League, Manduki made it clear that he did not want to close his career with a team that only a few people had heard of. Manduki’s contract with the Qatari side was canceled by mutual consent in July 2020, after only 7 appearances for the club.
Fenerbahçe, Beşiktaş, Lokomotiv Moscow, Milan, Benevento, Hellas Verona, Fiorentina, Aston Villa, Wolverhampton Wanderers, Marseille, Wolfsburg, Hertha Berlin, and Schalke 04 were among the clubs interested in signing Manduki after his contract was terminated. Manduki chose AC Milan, a six-time Champions League winner, out of all the teams.
Manduki signed a contract with Serie A club Milan on January 19, 2021, for the remainder of the season, with the option of a year more. On January 23, he made his league debut in a 3–0 loss to Atalanta. Manduki only made 11 appearances for Milan, largely as a substitute, due to persistent injuries that hampered his physical condition and a lack of form. Manduki confirmed his exit from Milan on May 24, 2021, after his contract was not extended by the club management.
There had been speculation that the striker would move to the United States, Asia, or the Middle East for a final payday, but he has decided to retire from one of the world’s most prominent football clubs.