Mariano Diaz Mejia – known simply as Mariano – returned to Real Madrid in the summer of 2018, after a successful 14-month spell in France with Olympique Lyonnais. After only selling the Spanish-born striker in 2017, Real decided to activate their buy-back option, with superstar striker Cristiano Ronaldo leaving to join Italian champions Juventus.
After a brief spell with Espanyol in his youth, Mariano eventually worked his way from Catalonia to the Spanish capital, progressing through the youth teams at Real Madrid. His talents were further nurtured by then coach Zinedine Zidane in the Real B team – but, with first-team appearances limited to cup matches, the decision was made to sell the forward to Lyon. In his only full season in France, he scored 21 goals in 45 appearances.
The former Dominican Republic international – Mariano retired after a single cap to pursue his dream of representing Spain – rejoined Real, despite a deal having been reportedly agreed with Sevilla. Now wearing the famous number seven shirt previously worn by the likes of Ronaldo and Raul, the 25-year-old wasted no time in getting off the mark, scoring on his first appearance off the bench against Roma in the Champions League. He is yet to add to that strike, however, with Real struggling as a team in front of goal.
One of Mariano’s major attributes is his ability to consistently pick out the corners of the goal when shooting. He strikes his shots in a similar style to that of Harry Kane or Jermain Defoe, to bounce either just in front of or behind the goalkeeper. This method adds extra speed as the ball bounces off the pitch – particularly when wet – and ensures that the ball is as low as possible the moment it travels past the goalkeeper (below).