Transfer Grade: Antoine Griezmann (back) to Atletico Madrid (on loan)

Written By Tyler Everett on September 1, 2021

Who: Antoine Griezmann
To Where: Atletico Madrid
From Where: Barcelona
For How Much: N/A (loan)
Grade for Atletico Madrid: A
Grade for Barcelona: Does WTF count as a grade?? (D)

ANTOINE GRIEZMANN TO ATLETICO MADRID OVERVIEW

Apparently, the solution to Barcelona’s financial problems a month after they had to let Lionel Messi out the door was … giving Antoine Griezmann back to reigning La Liga champ Atletico Madrid??

Barcelona endured a tough transfer deadline day as far as the current roster is concerned, but a lot of their moves made sense. Since Philippe Coutinho, Samuel Umtiti and Ousmane Dembele, to name a few, remain hard sells (a massive salary + a lack of recent production does not, apparently = high demand), Barcelona had to part ways with younger, more desirable assets like Ilaix Moriba and Emerson Royal. Those moves were tough to swallow, but they make sense given this team’s financial situation.

But Griezmann was the most proven, reliable guy up top right now – though I admit Memphis Depay has looked infinitely better early this season – and the financial relief from this move is not worth the damage this is going to do to the Catalans’ attack.

Barcelona are saving money by avoiding paying Griezmann’s salary. But Atleti will be happy to pay him as they look to defend the ’20-21 title they won thanks in large part to ex-Barca striker Luis Suarez, another player they were able to acquire for virtually nothing thanks to Barcelona’s backbreaking debt.

The “Glass Half-Full”

If Ansu Fati and Ousmane Dembele are both healthy and productive all year … Never mind, they’re already missing significant time – Fati is expected to return in September, while Dembele hopes to be back in late October. If those two somehow stay healthy the rest of the way, this move might end up looking more logical than it does now (you could certainly do worse than a front line of Fati, Depay and Dembele). That seems like an extremely remote possibility, though.

One last thing before we get to the actual Griezmann-to-Atleti piece of this: Barcelona decided today that Fati should wear No. 10. You can’t make this shit up.

WHO IS ANTOINE GRIEZMANN?

Griezmann has been a versatile, talented piece in both La Liga and for the French national team for a long time now. His production in ’19-20 and ’20-21 with Barcelona never came close to matching what he did for Atleti, but he was a solid complementary piece next to Messi. Though he never fit perfectly alongside the Argentine, he didn’t let that keep him off the pitch, and in my estimation, he was a bigger contributor than his stats (13 goals, 7 assists in ’20-21; 9 goals, 4 assists in ’19-20) showed.

For more on pre-Barcelona Griezmann, check out what we wrote here about what a massive star he was when Barcelona signed him back in ’19: Transfer Grade: Barcelona Sign Antoine Griezmann for €120 Million.

IS THE PRICE FAIR?

For Los Rojiblancos, fair is a hell of an understatement.

Atleti is absolutely robbing Barcelona here, no matter how much they’re spending covering Griezmann’s wages. Two summers after selling Griezmann for €120M, they get him back without having to pay a transfer fee, at least for now. And the mandatory option to buy of €40M after this season — or next — will be easy for them to stomach as long as the Frenchman, who is still just 30 years old, reintegrates under a manager and system he knows extremely well.

WHAT IMPACT SHOULD WE EXPECT?

Atleti managed to score enough to win La Liga a year ago thanks to big contributions from Angel Correa, Yannick Carrasco, Marcos Llorente and Luis Suarez. With Griezmann in the mix, assuming he meshes with his “new” teammates, Atleti should be infinitely more potent offensively. If Griezmann is even close to the player he was two years ago – and he doesn’t appear to have fallen off physically, even if he was less productive with Barcelona – Atleti just got a lot better.

If João Félix stays healthy and consistent as well, we might be talking about a contender for not only La Liga, but also the Champions League. At the moment, Atleti is +275 to win the Spanish league, behind Real Madrid (+100) and Barcelona (+250). In the UCL, Diego Simeone’s team is a massive longshot (+2,500) – and pretty damn good value at that price, in my opinion

THE GRADES

Atletico Madrid: A

What a last-minute boost for Simeone & Co. Normally, a high-profile move for a 30-year old coming off a couple disappointing seasons would be a lot riskier. But given Griezmann’s durability and familiarity with Atleti (and the fact he was a starter for an elite French side at Euro 2020), this seems like a slam dunk.

If you’d have told Atleti fans when they sold Griezmann in ’19 that they’d A) use that money to sign Félix, B) watch Griezmann win neither La Liga nor the Champions League with the Catalans in ’19-20 or ’20-21 and then C) welcome him back for the ’21-22 season, they’d have never believed you.

BARCELONA: D

I’ll get serious here and give them a D instead of a “WTF” — or an F (like ESPN.com) — because I do realize that’s not one of my options. But what a disaster. La Liga will be more interesting if I’m wrong about how toothless Barcelona now is up front, so I’d love to be overreacting here. But this screams “disaster,” even to those of us aware of the financial problems behind this decision.

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