When former Croatia manager Slaven Bilic was asked about facing Mario Balotelli at Euro 2012, he had this to say in an interview published by the Observer.
“Geniuses are always the closest to lunatics and he is a borderline case. But we have a couple of those in our team as well.”
One man he could easily have been referring to was Mario Mandzukic, who at that time was on the verge of leaving Wolfsburg with his then-manager, Felix Magath, saying he would “accept any fair offer”.
When the offer came, it was from Bayern Munich, and the striker has not looked back, scoring 22 goals in his first season and netting 13 times so far this campaign.
But after what looks like being two solid seasons, he could be on his way, with reports suggesting the arrival of Robert Lewandowski will see Mandzukic surplus to requirements at the Allianz Arena.
So what next for the player of whom Magath once said, “No one can tame him”?
Manchester United have been heavily linked with the 27-year-old in recent days, with David Moyes reportedly scouting the striker as he continues his search for reinforcements.
But were he to arrive, would he be the next Dimitar Berbatov or the next Eric Cantona?
He certainly has the talent to excel at Old Trafford, as his goal-record proves. And it has been nearly two years since Magath reportedly said, “When midfielders fail to pass him the ball, he sometimes gets upset and reacts like a little baby.”
Given his form at Bayern Munich, he could arrive at United and be the icing on a newly-constructed cake, an unpredictable but supremely talented front-man with the ability to make the difference when it is most needed.
Then again, much will depend on the futures of Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie.
image: © jiazi