Atletico Madrid announced the official capture of striker Mario Mandžukić from Bayern Munich this week, thought to be for a fee in the region of €22 million.
The Croatian joins the long list of players to have spearheaded the Atletico attack over the last 10 years, and with that comes the heavy weight of expectation. How will Mario compare to those who have come before?
The pressure on Mandžukić is arguably the most that any new Atletico player has faced over the last decade – he is tasked with leading the charge to retain the Spanish title.
The last striker to sign for Atletico as Spanish champions was Juan Esnaider back in 1996. He scored 16 goals in an impressive season – but los Rojiblancos fell to a disappointing 5th place finish.
But how do you measure success? What does Mandžukić have to live up to?
Let’s look back at some of the players to have led the front line over the last ten years, and their first season in red and white.
Still the favourite son of many rojiblancos across the world – Fernando Torres enjoyed a solid start to his Atletico career in the top flight. After helping Atleti to gain promotion back to La Liga, Torres scored 13 goals in 29 appearances, securing a 12th place finish for his boyhood club.
Still a teenager at the time, the 2002/03 campaign was his breakthrough season, and we all know what he went on to achieve. 91 goals in 244 appearances for Atleti puts Torres eleventh in the list of all time Atletico scorers.
Kun Aguero was signed for a record €23 milliom to partner Fernando Torres up-front, but only got to play with the Spaniard for a single year, before Torres’ move to Liverpool in the summer of 2007.
Supporting Torres in his first season, Kun managed only 6 goals in 38 league appearances. He went on to achieve much more in his five years at Atleti – and helped Atleti fans get over the loss of El Nino by scoring 19 goals the following season.
Another great buy, Aguero sits in 9th on the top-scorers list after scoring 101 goals for Atletico.
Aguero had to share the 2007/08 spotlight with Diego Forlan, who joined from Villarreal after 3 outstanding season for the Yellow Submarine. His first season with Atleti saw the Uruguayan score 16 times in 36 league appearances. Forlan and Kun combined to help los colchoneros to a 4th place finish, and return to the UEFA Champions League after an 11 year absence.
Diego Forlan went on to score 96 goals in 196 appearances for Atletico Madrid, before leaving for Internazionale in 2011.
The most prolific striker in recent history, Radamel Falcao was signed from FC Porto for a club record initial €40 million. The Colombian did not disappoint, scoring a massive 24 goals in just 34 league appearances.
El Tigre scored 36 goals for Atletico across all competitions in his first year, the most by any player in a first season playing for the club. If our Croatian gets anywhere near this record, it will be €22 million very well spent.
Falcao broke Atleti hearts when he announced he was leaving for Monaco in the 2013 transfer window after just 2 seasons in Madrid. Despite a few tears from the player himself, Falcao left having scored 70 goals in just 91 appearances.
Our most recent hero, and the man Mandžukić will directly replace, Diego Costa had a checkered start to his Atletico career. Broken up by spells at Brafa, Celta, Albacete and Vallecano, Costa was even sold to Vallodlid in 2009, but was bought back swiftly at the end of the season.
His first full season as an Atletico starter came in the 2012/13 season, and saw Costa score 10 league goals in 31 appearances. He won rojiblanco hearts for his work rate, and his attitude in games.
His equaliser against Real Madrid in the 2013 Copa del Rey win endeared him further, and he picked up the top scorer award in the cup, one strike ahead of Ronaldo.
Chelsea paid Diego Costa’s release clause this week, and the Brazilian-turned-Spaniard leaves with 64 goals in 135 Atletico appearances.
Of all of our strikers in recent history, the stay of David Villa’s was the shortest. Joining from Barcelona for a cut-price 5me, el Guave went on to score 13 goals in 36 league appearances, providing support to Diego Costa in Simeone’s attack.
His debut goal was sensational – a volley against his former club in the Spanish Super Cup – and he wasted no time in celebrating. Villa played a key part in Atletico’s first title since 1996, and left with the thanks of rojiblancos everywhere as he moved on to sign for New York City in the MLS, via Melbourne City.
Who was your favourite, and why? How many does Mandžukić have to score to be considered a success? Do Atleti have to win the league for him not to be considered a flop?