Croatian football legend and The Blazers’ World Cup hero Mario Mandzukic has retired from football at the age of 35, three years after playing his last international game.
Mandzukic, who scored the winning goal against England in the semifinals of the World Cup in 2018, announced his decision in a post on Instagram, which included a photo of a pair of boots, on Friday night.
In a message written in English and addressed to his young self, “Dear little Mario”, and signed “Your big Mario”, Mandzukic wrote:
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While you put on these boots for the first time, you can’t even imagine what you will get to experience in football.
You’ll recognize the moment to retire, to put these boots in a cabinet and you’ll have no regrets.
You will score goals on the biggest stages and win the biggest trophies in the jerseys of the biggest clubs.
In the jersey of greatest pride, the Croatian national team, you will write some of the most important moments of Croatian sport.
Mandzukic appeared 89 times for Croatia scoring 33 goals, he also for played Bayern Munich, Atletico Madrid and Juventus and appeared 11 times this year for AC Milan.
Plagued by injury he was used mostly as a substitute and did not score a goal.
He won the Croatian league three times with Dinamo Zagreb, the Bundesliga, twice, and the Champions League at Bayern, and Serie A four times at Juventus.
Juventus, Croatian sports stars Miralem Pjanic, tennis player Marin Cilic and NBA small forward Bojan Bogdanovic all joined the online chorus of praise as did Blaise Matuidi (French midfielder), an opponent in the 2018 World Cup final and team-mate at Juventus.
Croatian coach Zlatko Dalic thanked Mandzukic in a statement calling him “a fighter on whom the team could always rely, a player for big games and the toughest challenges”.
Born in Slavonski Brod, Mandzukic began his career in 2004 at home town club Marsonia. He signed his first major contract with Dinamo Zagreb in 2007.
He then played for Wolfsburg (2010-2012), Bayern Munich (2012-2014), Atletico Madrid (2014-2015) and Juventus (2015-2019).