Real Madrid look set to exercise their buy-back clause to re-sign former striker Mariano Diaz Mejia from Lyon.
Sevilla were thought to be in the running for the 25-year-old, until president Pepe Castro revealed that Los Blancos had beaten them to the punch, as Julen Lopetegui looks for backup for Karim Benzema.
So, as Real look set to shell out over £20m to re-sign a striker they let go for less than half that just one year ago, here are six things to know about the Dominican-Spanish poacher with a penchant for hitting the woodwork…
1. He Was Born in Catalonia
Mariano was born in Premia Del Mar, a touristy beach town, 25km up the coast from the home of Real’s Madrid’s great rivals, Barcelona.
He spent his youth career at the likes of Espanyol and Badalona before joining Real Madrid in 2011.
Should he re-join Real Madrid, he wouldn’t be the only Catalan-born player in the squad, with backup keeper Kiko Casilla originating from near Tarragona.
2. The Son of a Bodybuilder & Gym Manager
Ironically, considering his father’s vocation, Mariano was actually released by Espanyol’s youth academy for being too slight.
However, after a growth spurt that would’ve made his old man proud, Mariano got a chance to impress at Segunda B level with Badalona, where he was spotted and picked up by Real Madrid.
3. Dominican Republic or Spain
Through his mother’s nationality, Mariano can and has represented Dominican Republic at international level. His only appearance for the Caribbean island came in a 3-1 win over Haiti back in 2013, in which he scored his side’s third.
Due to the fact that the encounter was only a friendly, Mariano is still eligible to play for Spain and he has deliberately shunned advances from the Dominican Republic to play more games.
As Spain manager, Lopetegui did not call him up for international duty, preferring the likes of Iago Aspas and Rodrigo as alternatives to Diego Costa. However, new La Roja boss Luis Enrique will likely have an eye on his form for upcoming fixtures.
4. Second Top Scoring Spaniard Last Season
With 18 Ligue 1 goals in 2017/18, the only Spanish player to outscore Mariano in Europe’s top leagues last season was Iago Aspas (22).
Mariano, in his first full season of top flight football, took to Lyon like a duck to water, earning the nickname La Bête (the Beast).
His league tally equalled that of Falcao, Nabil Fekir and Mario Balotelli, while he outscored Kylian Mbappe.
So far this season, Mariano has one goal in the Coupe de France but none in three outings in the league.
5. Hitting the Post
While he wasn’t short of goals last season, hitting 21 in all competitions in his maiden campaign in France, Mariano might’ve netted more were it not for his bizarre proficiency at finding the woodwork.
All in all, he hit the post or bar seven times in 2017/18. For context, that is one more than Harry Kane – the player with the most shots against the woodwork in the Premier League last season.
6. Eye for Goal
A predatory number nine type striker, Mariano will not be expected to move out wide, run the channels of drop deep if he joins up with Real Madrid this season, but will compete with Karim Bezema for the central berth in attack.
As Lyon assistant Gerald Baticle put it to Eurosport (via ?Goal): “When others might want to make a pass, his [Mariano’s] first idea is to find an angle to shoot towards goal. All his play is in the centre towards goal.”
In the Copa del Rey in 2016/17 before he left Real Madrid for Lyon, Mariano was afforded his main opportunity to impress Zinedine Zidane, scoring four times in five outings.
The season before, while with Real Madrid Castilla, he bagged 27 in 33 outings.