Post subject: Mandzukic: "Special Scudetto success"
13. May 2016, 12:38
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|From the moment that he netted in Juventus’ Italian Super Cup triumph over Lazio last August in Shanghai, it was clear that Mario Mandzukic was a man for the big occasion.
Further goals at key moments in many a crunch clash during a record-breaking campaign have served to improve the Croatian striker’s already burgeoning reputation as one of the game’s most predatory finishers.
Meanwhile, he has kept a career-long habit of winning trophies going upon confirmation of Juventus’ 2015/16 Scudetto crown, his 16th ever title with a 17th to fight for in the Coppa Italia final against Milan on 21 May.
From the emotions of a rollercoaster first year in Turin, his relationship with Massimiliano Allegri and a close look at what’s required to see the side follow up Serie A success with further cup glory, Mandzukic covered all of the bases in today’s interview with Sky Sport and Mediaset from the Bianconeri’s training base in Vinovo.
Secret to Juve’s success
“I’d have to say that our biggest strength is the character of the squad. This season we made a slow start, as we all know, but responded brilliantly and showed just how strong we are when we’re all clicking together as a team.
“What’s most important for me is that we win as a collective, not what I achieve on a personal level. The fact that we were able to bounce back from a difficult beginning is what counts. Whether I score or a team-mate does, what matters is that we end up on the winning side.”
From Sassuolo to Scudetto
“The real turning point in this season was certainly our reaction to the defeat against Sassuolo in October. After that match, we spoke to one another face to face and exchanged some home truths. We knew that we had to change something. From that moment on, our immense character shone through and helped us on our way to the title.
“I’ve been fortunate to win a lot of trophies throughout my career, but this league victory in my first season at a big club like Juventus is very special. I used to follow the Bianconeri a lot as a child and so I’m delighted to be a league champion here already with a chance to win the Coppa Italia too.”
Adapting to Italian football
“Italian football is naturally different to the kind I grew up playing in Croatia and later on in Germany. Here the focus is more on tactics and discipline. Every team has its sights set on getting the defence working perfectly and that can make it very difficult for the strikers.”
“The most important thing for me upon arriving at Juventus was that (Massimiliano) Allegri wanted me here. Naturally we needed time at the start to get to know one another but, over the course of time, we have built up a really good understanding.
“He has shown real belief in me and that is very important because it makes me want to repay the trust, not only to him, but to my team-mates and the whole club.
“He is a great guy. You can talk to him about serious things and have a laugh too. He is also a top coach that understands football and we have a great relationship.”
“If you don’t have the right approach for certain matches then you can expect a difficult evening. We need to prepare properly for this game. We should not be thinking that we’re favourites to win.
"After all, this is a cup final, a one-off match and we need to show the right level of respect towards Milan. If we’re fully focused then we have a better chance of attaining the victory we want.”
“We played well in this year’s Champions League but you also need luck. As you could see from how we exited the competition, the small details can make all of the difference. Unfortunately we weren’t able to progress to the tournament’s latter stages this season, but the positive thing for us is that we can learn from our experience and improve next time.”
Attitude to adversity
“I actually like it when people underestimate me. That makes me stronger. Regardless of what anyone says, I know what I can do and I believe in myself. I always want to be playing for top sides and lifting trophies.”