Antoine Griezmann, then. Player of the Tournament at Euro 2016, third best player at the 2018 World Cup, Player of the Year in La Liga for 2016, third in the Ballon d’Or voting twice in the last three years. World Cup winner. Europa League winner. UEFA Super Cup winner.
It’s been a handy few years for the Frenchman. He moved from Real Sociedad almost five years ago, and has improved season on season since then. In that time, he’s been more or less the only attacking player to flourish in Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid setup, scoring at least 15 league goals (and 25 goals in all competitions) every single season since his arrival.
Griezmann. Good at football.
— Chris Deeley (@ThatChris1209) August 20, 2018
That would be great consistency for a leading striker. He isn’t that. Griezmann routinely plays as a second striker, drifting between midfield and attack to find his own gaps. At the start of his Atleti career, that role bled into some selfishness, the need to do the job all alone. No other Atletico Madrid player has hit 15 league goals or 25 overall goals once since he arrived, and some of the blame fell on the Frenchman for that.
It’s a lot harder to place that blame on him now that he’s led the team in assists for the last three seasons. It’s even harder to see that when you actually watch him play – charging around the pitch, tracking back, starting attacks in his own half and sacrificing himself for the team in a way that true superstar forwards rarely do.
He’s not just the perfect player for Simeone’s Atleti now, he’s almost the perfect player full stop. If it wasn’t for Lionel Messi being Lionel Messi, he’d be the premiere player in La Liga and it wouldn’t be close.
He’s also kind of an asshole.
Used to like Antoine Griezmann before “The Decision”.
Now he’s going back on “The Decision” – despite Atletico’s season panning out similarly to how you’d have expected.
Barcelona smart to stay away IMO.
— Scott Saunders (@_scottsaunders) March 18, 2019
For all that he’s selfless with his work rate on the pitch, Griezmann has managed to create more contract drama around himself in the last 12 months than Messi and Ronaldo combined – and one of those two actually moved. He put out vague tweets, he filmed an entire documentary to announce that he was…staying at Atleti this last summer.
Now he’s considering a move. Again.
Thing is, despite being a World Cup winner and European championship semi-finalist, Griezmann turns 28 on Thursday and the only league title he’s won was in the Segunda Division. He’s been the best player for the world’s best team in their last two tournaments, but he’s never won the Champions League. He’s taken Atletico Madrid as far as he can, but they just won’t allow themselves to be carried over the hump.
He lost some good will from Atleti fans with his antics in the summer, almost holding the club hostage and getting a massive new contract in the bargain. That contract has a release clause which will drop to €120m in the summer and, for a player of his quality, any club who can remotely afford that will be looking very hard at making an offer – except Barcelona, who got burned by his rejection last summer.
Agitating for a move less than a year later is an asshole move. If Angel Correa pulled this, or Thomas Lemar, the answer would be simple. Boot in the backside, out the door, wave goodbye.
That’s not an option when it comes to Griezmann. Jan Oblak, Diego Godin (who might be leaving this summer) and Jose Gimenez are the solid base of the team, Rodri, Saul and Koke all are brilliant supplementary pieces, but Griezmann is the crucial, beating heart. Atleti don’t work without him.
It doesn’t matter if Antoine Griezmann is an asshole, because he’s brilliant. If the highest bid wins, pray to god it’s your club who makes it.