Rumors have begun to circulate about Tottenham’s reported interest in Juventus striker Mario Mandzukic. The club would be better off if that link stayed nothing but rumors.
It’s not that Mandzukic is a bad striker – far from it. He’s proven his quality and ability to adapt over the last three seasons as he switched from Bayern Munich to Atletico Madrid to Juventus. Each club played in very different styles, and each time Mandzukic found a way to be influential. Even with an injury that kept him out at Juventus for several weeks this season, he’s still up to nine goals in all competitions.
The bigger issues at play are twofold: Juventus’ rumored asking price and Mandzukic’s age.
At £20million, Juventus would not part with their striker cheaply. Tottenham might be able to negotiate down a price considering the fact that Juventus also have Alvaro Morata and Paulo Dybala at their disposal, but it likely won’t be bargain basement prices.
Should Tottenham actually pay, they would be acquiring a player who just turned 30 years old. He would be the oldest player in the regular squad with the exception of Michel Vorm. Paying too much for an aging player does not at all fit into Pochettino’s Tottenham.
The transfer policy has and will continue to prioritize undervalued, younger targets over anyone else. It’s worked well so far.
Yes, you could say that with the likelihood of Tottenham qualifying for the Champions League next season that the club’s priorities would change. They need Champions League experience in this team, right? They need someone who has seen it all, like Mandzukic.
How much is that actually worth, though? Is it worth £10million more pounds that the player is actually worth?
More importantly, look at what Tottenham have accomplished with the team they already have. Pochettino reshuffled the lineup, promotes from within and somehow the system still works. This isn’t a team that gets hung up on having the right names or the right experience. Rather, it’s about building a team that can collectively compete for the Premier League title and beyond.
Does that mean that Tottenham won’t buy this summer should they qualify for the Champions League? Absolutely not. They’ll buy, but when they do, it will be for players like French striker Moussa Dembele at Fulham or Breel Embolo at FC Basel.
All that being said, would Mandzukic thrive at Tottenham were he to overcome all obstacles and actually join? It’s hard to say.
Historically, he’s done well in possession-oriented systems like Guardiola’s Bayern Munich, in counter-attacking outfits like Diego Simeone’s Atletico and in amalgams of the two styles like Massimiliano Allegri’s Juventus.
While each of these sides are impressive, none can be said to involve the holistic kind of pressing that Pochettino’s Tottenham does. Would Mandzukic be able to drop deep and assist with build up play as well as Harry Kane currently does? Can he play out wide or through the middle of the attacking midfield like Erik Lamela, Nacer Chadli or Heung-min Son?
The answers to these questions are all some version of ‘no’. He’s a good striker and knows how to score, and he can even pair up with another more involved striker alongside him, but he’s not exactly the ideal candidate for Pochettino’s system.
It’s safe to assume from this current vantage point that Pochettino would not condone spending so much money on a player who can’t dramatically improve on the team he will likely take into next season.