Greiz­mann’s fu­ture lies in Barcelona but he owes Atletico a present for past loy­alty

Sport360 - - Latest News - Foot­ball with Tom All­nutt @toma­ll­nuttafp ed­i­to­rial@sport360.com

An­toine Griez­mann’s first ma­jor tro­phy with Atletico Madrid may well prove to be his last if they can over­come Mar­seille in the Europa League fi­nal on Wed­nes­day.

Griez­mann’s fu­ture has dom­i­nated the build-up to this week’s show­piece match in Lyon, with the striker widely ex­pected to join Barcelona in the sum­mer.

A string of Atletico play­ers were quizzed at a club ‘Me­dia Day’ last week and even if coach Diego Sime­one in­sisted his fo­cus was like that of a race­horse – “head for­ward, I don’t see or hear any­thing but the fi­nal” – it is im­pos­si­ble to ig­nore the noise sur­round­ing the French­man.

Luis Suarez had stirred the pot by speak­ing about Griez­mann as though a deal with Barca was al­ready com­pleted, which prompted an an­gry re­sponse from Atletico chief ex­ec­u­tive Miguel An­gel Gil Marin.

“We’re fed up with Barcelona’s at­ti­tude,” he said in a state­ment.

“How a pres­i­dent, player and board mem­ber speak the way they have done about the fu­ture of a player with an ex­ist­ing con­tract and just a few days be­fore dis­put­ing a Euro­pean fi­nal, is an ab­so­lute lack of re­spect to­wards Atletico.”

Griez­mann has cer­tainly not damp­ened the spec­u­la­tion, say­ing only that he wants his fu­ture re­solved be­fore the start of the World Cup, while last week even Atletico’s pres­i­dent Enrique Cerezo was hardly re­as­sur­ing when he said: “An­toine Griez­mann is an Atletico Madrid player, as of to­day.”

It all sug­gests the fi­nal could be amount to a Griez­mann farewell, af­ter a bumpy four years at Atletico, un­doubt­edly suc­cess­ful as a whole but not with­out a few stum­bles along the way.

This term, he has 30 goals in 52 ap­pear­ances and, since he joined, his La Liga record stands at 79 in 142.

“I think Griez­mann is big enough to know what he’s do­ing,” his strike part­ner Diego Costa said.

“For a player, when Barca want you, it makes you feel im­por­tant, but he knows that he is im­por­tant for us and that we want him here.”

A de­par­ture seemed likely last sum­mer when Griez­mann rated his chances of join­ing Manch­ester United at “six out of 10” but if his teas­ing was then deemed slightly dis­re­spect­ful, his de­ci­sion to stay was ap­plauded.

Atletico had been hit with a trans­fer ban and Griez­mann said it would feel “dirty” to leave, with the club in­ca­pable of bring­ing in his suc­ces­sor.

But a new con­tract looked more like a stop-gap given it in­cluded a ¤100 mil­lion re­lease clause, which will ac­ti­vate from July 1. For a 27-year-old in the prime of his ca­reer, be­fore a World Cup, it is not a fig­ure to de­ter his suit­ors.

“He would be cheap for the in­ter­na­tional mar­ket,” Filipe Luis said. “And it will be even cheaper if he wins the fi­nal.”

All the more rea­son then for Griez­mann to de­liver against Mar­seille, and for the club that took the gam­ble to sign him from Real So­ciedad in 2014 when other elite teams looked but de­cided to hold off.

Mar­seille, mean­while, are the club Griez­mann was pic­tured man­ag­ing while play­ing the game ‘Foot­ball Man­ager’ last year, when he jok­ingly apol­o­gised to Valere Ger­main and Kostas Mitroglou for not pick­ing them in his side.

The furore sur­round­ing Griez­mann also serves to high­light the bril­liant job Sime­one has done, against the odds, and with ri­vals al­ways cir­cling his star play­ers.

But Griez­mann too has been key to Atletico’s run to the fi­nal and his tal­ent would be dif­fi­cult to re­place.

“Right now he is think­ing about win­ning a ti­tle,” Costa said. “If Griez­mann can make his­tory here with us, win that ti­tle, then af­ter­wards there will be time for him to de­cide what to do.”

A tro­phy send off would seem like the fit­ting fi­nale but for Griez­mann a per­for­mance in Lyon would also jus­tify his stand­ing as one of the world’s premier for­wards.

The French­man will hope to go out with a bang.

The band is break­ing up: An­toine Griez­mann looks set to leave Atletico Madrid in the sum­mer.

A new con­tract looked more like a stop­gap given it in­cluded a €100 mil­lion re­lease clause, which will ac­ti­vate from July 1

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