Mailman Mario delivered the goods at City
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Mario Vrancic has certainly fulfilled the brief at Norwich City.
A man Daniel Farke joked at times had been mistaken for his son-in-law during a Carrow Road career that will reach its climax at Barnsley on Saturday.
The Bosnian international was Farke’s first overseas signing when he joined from Darmstadt within a month of the head coach’s own arrival in 2017.
That says everything about how much Norwich’s double title-winning chief regarded the 31-year-old.
Few in these parts would have known too much about a midfielder Farke described in this fashion on the club’s official site, upon confirmation of his move.
“He’s a really smart technical player with a brilliant left foot. He will bring a lot of quality passing and special creativity to the team.
"In addition to that he’s a really good character and a very nice guy who will fit into Norwich. I’m really looking forward to working with him."
Just how brilliant that left foot is would only become apparent when he hovered over a dead ball situation.
James Maddison, himself no stranger to set piece sorcery, took to social media earlier this season to hail Vrancic as one of the best he had worked with.
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That eulogy came after a brilliant stoppage time free kick finally did for plucky Wycombe at Carrow Road in a testing early phase of this latest Championship campaign. It came four days after his match-winning intervention to break down a stubborn Birmingham.
In its own way, and with the benefit of hindsight, you could argue that was Vrancic’s 'Sheffield Wednesday moment' from the previous title-winning success of two seasons ago. Different times of the season but no less crucial to the final outcome.
That stoppage time free kick equaliser in front of the River End in April 2019 remains the stuff of legend.
The eruption inside Carrow Road felt like a massive release from all the pent up tension and nervous energy generated by an unheralded squad on the cusp of an improbable top flight promotion.
Teemu Pukki and Emi Buendia, then as now, were the headline grabbers in 2019 but Vrancic was the talisman when it mattered that season. Another brilliant long range effort at home to Blackburn followed prior to the title-sealing strike at Villa Park.
The goals dried up this time after his purple patch in October. But there was still an extended run in that attacking midfield role before deferring to fit-again Kieran Dowell.
A changing of the guard might be a bridge too far but Farke publicly highlighted his advancing age and perhaps what he offered in pure technical quality will always be lacking in athleticism and physical power.
Vrancic’s game is balletic touch and feel, not the bludgeon, and in the Premier League, as Farke and Stuart Webber discovered to their cost last time out, you need to source plenty of both.
Hence why Vrancic will follow Alex Tettey out of the exit when his contract officially expires this summer.
He will have seen the manner fellow German-bred midfielders Moritz Leitner and Tom Trybull were jettisoned ahead of this campaign, and is experienced enough to know sentiment is not a commodity Norwich can trade in.
Vrancic’s City career has largely evolved in the hinterland. Not quite establishing himself as a regular starter over the entire piece. Yet never fitting the stereotype of a bit-part operator from the bench.
Farke has often alluded to this contradictory tussle, and why his periods in the Norwich starting line up owed everything to the midfielder’s class rather than any benevolence from his manager.
What is not in doubt is Vrancic leaves behind a rich back catalogue of memories and influential goals. His name will always be synonymous with a period which, whatever next season brings in the Premier League, brought Championship dominance.
There is surely plenty of football left in those talented legs in the right surroundings, given his game was never dependent on raw athletic ability.
His stock as a member of another Premier League-bound collective should be high enough to attract a suitor who can offer him a greater role to weave his magic.
That free kick showreel must have more frames to add yet.