Who: Antoine Griezmann
From Where: Atlético Madrid
To Where: Barcelona
For How Much: €120 million (with a €800 million release clause)
Grade for Barcelona: A
Grade for Atlético Madrid: A
Antoine Griezmann to Barcelona Overview
Finally, the wait is over.
But not without plenty of drama and intrigue.
As soon as Antoine Griezmann announced in mid-May that he was out the door at Atleti, Barcelona became the immediate favorite to land the Frenchman. Griezmann is one of the best forwards in the world, and at 28, he’s squarely in his prime.
He’s also a great fit on a team that probably would have won the Champions League if not for a meltdown in the second leg of the semifinals.
If there was one thing Barcelona was missing the last two seasons without Neymar, it was a consistently reliable third option up top alongside Lionel Messi and Luis Suárez. Ousmane Dembélé has not been able to stay on the field. Philippe Coutinho (as we’ve mentioned here on High Press Soccer once or twice) did not fill that role. None of Barcelona’s young forward prospects appear ready for such a role, either. As good as Suárez remains, he is 32 and beginning to show signs of his age.
Who is he?
Griezmann needs no introduction at this point. He’s been the best-known player in La Liga outside Barcelona and Real Madrid for some time now.
With at least 15 goals and eight assists in each of the last three seasons, he’s carried a bigger share of a top European team’s offensive load than anyone other than Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. His success the last few years is particularly head-turning considering the lack of help he’s had up top at defensive-minded Atleti. It’s a scary thought to consider what Griezmann is capable of alongside Messi and Suarez – does Barcelona once again boast the world’s best attacking trio?
He’s also a proven commodity for the reigning World Cup champs. In terms of hype, Griezmann (and everyone else in the tournament) took a backseat to Kylian Mbappé and Paul Pogba in Russia. Griezmann, however, still scored four goals (tied for the second-most behind Harry Kane’s six) and tallied two assists for the champs.
At Euro 2016, Griezmann piled up six goals to win the Golden Boot and added two assists. He and Eden Hazard will — barring something completely unforeseen — be the best players to change teams this summer.
Is the price fair?
OK fine, I’ll put it in different words, but the same logic holds true whether you’re talking about Hazard, Griezmann or any other star in their prime.
Yes, the €120 million fee is exorbitant at first glance (and shield your eyes from the €800 million release clause!). But no, it’s not unreasonable.
Consider that similar, if not more, will be spent on players like Matthijs de Ligt (Juventus?) and has been spent on Atléti’s new #7 João Félix. Any team would be thrilled if those players become even 70-80% as productive as Griezmann.
The only two possible red flags with a 28-year-old making a move after so much time in one place are injuries and fit. The former is hardly a concern with a player as durable as Griezmann over the years. And in terms of fit, he’s upgrading his surroundings, dramatically, by moving to one of the best offensive teams in Europe. It doesn’t hurt that he’s linking up with the greatest player we’ve ever seen.
Is anyone in soccer in a better spot than Griezmann, who will be playing alongside Messi for his club and Mbappe for his country for the next phase of his career?
What impact should we expect?
With Hazard as the exception, for most of the players we’ve graded, this section has been where we wonder how much playing time they’ll get.
With Griezmann, the question is whether he’s the difference for his new team between an embarrassing UCL flameout and a European trophy. Griezmann alone does not make Barcelona the favorite to win its first Champions League title since ‘15. However, he’s a massive addition at his team’s biggest position of need. He also adds the athleticism that an aging roster needs more of this upcoming season.
No need to over-complicate this. Barcelona gets an A for getting a potentially transformational player in his prime. He’s the perfect player to lead the transition from Suárez and pair with Messi as he begins to age (if he ever does actually age).
From Atlético’s perspective, they got the full post-July 1st €120m and have already wisely re-invested it on Griezmann’s replacement. They earn a long, drawn-out, painful A as well.
Atlético Madrid forward Antoine Griezmann’s summer move to Barcelona has reportedly been in the works for months. But while many expected him to be introduced as a new member of the Catalan club on July 1, he remains a member of Atleti more than one tumultuous week later.
Griezmann’s departure has quickly become an ugly divorce in the Spanish capital. We know that he’s on his way out – his old club wouldn’t have committed a record transfer sum to Portuguese star João Félix if there was any chance Griezmann was staying – but it’s unclear exactly when he’ll join his new team.
Below is our best effort to sort through Barcelona’s latest complicated acquisition of a star forward.
Griezmann to Barcelona History
Early last summer, Griezmann’s days with Atleti appeared numbered.
The longstanding rumors about his desire to join Barcelona were steadily intensifying until June 14, 2018, when he signed a new contract that was set to run through ’23. He not only renewed his deal with the team he’d played for since ’14-15, he did it in dramatic, LeBron James-style fashion.
Griezmann to Barça Summer Transfer
Less than a year later, he and Atleti confirmed he would be part of a massive offseason exodus of longtime key contributors. It was an open secret that the allure of Barcelona had finally become too much for him to resist. Many believed – and reported – that the deal would be signed on July 1, when his release clause would drop from €200M to €120M. Easy enough, right?
Instead, we’ve been reminded that nobody does summer drama quite like Barcelona (Google the club’s signing of Neymar from Santos, or the Brazilian’s move from Barca to PSG, to learn about the two most recent examples). Could this ordeal be responsible for the exit of VP Jordi Mestre last week? Considering the timing, it’s hard to believe the two are completely unrelated.
Back to Griezmann, though. The hangup here is related to Atlético’s anger that Barcelona negotiated with the Frenchman back in February and had an agreement with him by March. Anyone too caught up in the 4th of July weekend missed Atleti releasing a statement expressing their “strongest disapproval” of the behavior of both Griezmann and Barcelona.
The latest development was Griezmann’s absence from Atleti training Sunday and Monday. Atletico said it has opened disciplinary proceedings – with a fine a possibility – as it had ordered Griezmann to attend practice since he’s still under contract.
Now, Barcelona wants to pay the €120M release clause in staggered installments, but Atleti reportedly wants it all at once. To spice things up further, at Atleti’s presentation of Felix, club President Enrique Cerezo called the No. 7 jersey – which will be worn by Felix instead of Griezmann next season — “the shirt of commitment.” If that’s not a shot at the longtime Atleti striker, I don’t what what would be.
What happens next?
I expect that whether Griezmann puts pen to paper this week or next, it won’t be long before his move goes through. He reportedly said on Monday that he’s willing to pay the €120M himself if he has to (in which case Barcelona would reimburse him over time). That seems like the most likely end to the standoff.
The big question is what happens if Atleti can prove Barcelona reached an agreement with Griezmann in March. If it’s proven that a deal was agreed to then, Los Rojiblancos would have a case that Barcelona would have to pay the €200M release clause that was in effect at that time. There has also been speculation that Atleti could demand one of Barcelona’s young players to make the deal go through. That seems unlikely, but stranger things have happened in transfer dealings involving the Catalans.
The safest bet, though, is that Griezmann participates in Barcelona’s summer training, while the legal imbroglio over who gets paid what, and when, drags on for the next year (or five, if the Neymar saga is anything to go by).