Griez­mann is worth the price

Colum­nist Diego For­lan ex­plains why he rates Atletico Madrid’s An­toine Griez­mann so highly.

The National - News - Sport - - FRONT PAGE - Diego For­lan sports@then­

There is an­other rea­son why Griez­mann is so at­trac­tive to the rich­est clubs and that is his con­sis­tency. He is hardly ever in­jured

Though he is a very dif­fer­ent type of player, An­toine Griez­mann is this year’s Paul Pogba, the ex­cep­tion­ally good young French player linked with a move to one of the best clubs in the world.

Pogba joined Manch­ester United in a world record move, Griez­mann could do the same.

Like Pogba, Griez­mann is do­ing very well for his club and coun­try and no mat­ter how much he de­nies the spec­u­la­tion about a move to Old Traf­ford, the ru­mours do not go away.

The big­gest clubs tend to get what they want. I cer­tainly don’t see Griez­mann as a player who will be at Atletico Madrid for many years, cer­tainly not be­yond two or three.

Diego Sime­one stay­ing could be a good rea­son for him to re­main. Sime­one is the man­ager that bought him, who gives him con­fi­dence. Sime­one leav­ing could be a big blow for the club, but as older play­ers such as Gabi re­tire or move on it is also im­por­tant for Atletico to keep their best tal­ents like Griez­mann if they want to stay at their cur­rent level which is their high­est.

It is now nor­mal for Atletico to be in the semi-fi­nals of the Uefa Cham­pi­ons League, one of the best four clubs in the best com­pe­ti­tion in the world. And that is with a rel­a­tively mod­est bud­get.

I re­ally rate Griez­mann highly. He is fast, he scores, he can play any­where across the front of the at­tack. He is only 26, on the cusp of his peak. He is not a clas­sic No 9, but he can play the role.

He has a good left foot, he can score from out­side the box and in it. He takes set-pieces and penal­ties. He can score mag­i­cal goals, like when he went back to San Se­bas­tian and chipped the Real So­ciedad goal­keeper.

He has a foot­ball in­tel­li­gence which sees him make runs at the right time.

If he was 29 or 30 I could see him stay­ing at Atletico. He is happy and at a great club who are about to move to a big new sta­dium. Madrid is a good place for a foot­baller; I speak from ex­pe­ri­ence. His sale could earn Atletico a for­tune, but they do not need the money any more like they used to.

Griez­mann’s buy­out clause is €100 mil­lion (Dh399m), a vast amount, but is the sum un­re­al­is­tic given how much Pogba cost and how much money there is at the big­gest English clubs? Or he can be­come the main man at Atletico, their best paid player on money close to what the likes of United can pay.

Atletico’s suc­cess in Europe helps that, but they are still a long way be­hind the big­gest clubs fi­nan­cially.

I am sure those coaches who passed up on sign­ing a young Griez­mann be­cause he was too small have long re­gret­ted their de­ci­sion. It is a fault of English foot­ball, and ob­vi­ously French foot­ball, that play­ers are passed over be­cause they are too small when they are teenagers, but just look at the best play­ers in the word.

Lionel Messi is no gi­ant and nor were some of his Barcelona team­mates in­clud­ing Xavi or An­dres Ini­esta. Juan Mata, David Silva and Ser­gio Aguero are among the best of their era.

None of them are tall, but they are still strong and fast.

Diego Maradona wasn’t too bad ei­ther, was he?

Griez­mann was de­ter­mined to suc­ceed and made the move to Spain when he was only 14 to join Real So­ciedad, where be­ing small need not be the ob­sta­cle that it can be in north­ern Europe. He proved the doubters wrong by ris­ing through the youth teams – and also be­ing a key player as La Real rose from the sec­ond divi­sion, where he made his de­but in 2009/10, to the Uefa Cham­pi­ons League by 2013/14.

Tim­ing is so im­por­tant in foot­ball and while he con­trib­uted to So­ciedad’s rise, he was for­tu­nate in the tim­ing of it too.

His move to Atletico in 2014 for €30 mil­lion was per­fect for Griez­mann, a step up to one of the big­gest and best teams, one play­ing at a higher level un­der Sime­one than some of the more richer clubs.

He cost them a lot of money and strug­gled at first, but ended the sea­son with 25 goals, a fan­tas­tic tally at any club, espe­cially for a player who of­ten plays in a wide po­si­tion. He was se­lected in the Uefa Team of the Year in at­tack along­side Cris­tiano Ron­aldo and Messi.

He was even bet­ter last sea­son, scor­ing 32 times in­clud­ing seven in the Cham­pi­ons League as Atletico reached a sec­ond fi­nal in three years. Play­ing against teams like Bay­ern Mu­nich and stand­ing out, he showed he is a big-match player.

He has scored the win­ning goal away at Real Madrid – some­thing I came close to achiev­ing!

He scored both goals against Barcelona to knock them out of the Cham­pi­ons League. He scored the de­ci­sive goal in Mu­nich in the Cham­pi­ons League semi-fi­nal last sea­son.

Griez­mann is a qual­ity fin­isher and there are few of those around, play­ers who can get those key goals to win the big­gest games.

There is an­other rea­son why Griez­mann is so at­trac­tive to the rich­est clubs and that is his con­sis­tency. He is hardly ever in­jured and had played be­tween 34 and 39 league games in all seven of his sea­sons as a pro­fes­sional.

He also has high en­ergy lev­els and, like Pogba, plays al­most ev­ery minute of ev­ery game.

He is an at­tacker who works hard to de­fend and while he is al­ready at a great club, he would be a great player for a club like United. But they will have to pay a lot of money for him.

An aw­ful lot. But I think he would be worth it.

Getty Im­ages

Richard Heath­cote / Getty Im­ages

An­toine Griez­mann, 26, of Atletico Madrid is on the wish-list of many clubs, in­clud­ing Manch­ester United, who can af­ford to pay big money.

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