Antoine Griezmann is undoubtedly one of the best football players in the world right now. He’s taken Atlético Madrid to new heights globally, leaving as the fifth highest goal scorer in the club’s history after only five seasons. He’s been on two Ballon D’Or podiums and he’s been involved in nearly half of the team’s goals this season, and yet no one seems to care that he’s leaving.
It‘s almost surreal that the fans feel utter indifference towards a player of his category. Especially when you take into consideration that in most games, he’s given his all on the pitch. But there’s the problem. A player of his magnitude doesn’t just have the camera on him for 90 minutes. In this media circus that seems to follow every superstar, Griezmann hasn’t understood how to handle himself. He’s spent the last three years playing a very risky game, either looking for new contracts, ways out of the one he had or simply just saying the wrong thing at the wrong time.
In conclusion, giving Griezmann a microphone is like giving a monkey a shotgun.
Rewinding to 2016, where Griezmann truly established himself as more than just a good player in a great moment. He’d just played the champions league final with Atletico and the Euro 2016 with France; both resulting in defeat for the then 25-year-old who was playing arguably the best football of his career. The summer went smoothly as he quietly went back to preseason with his club. It wasn’t until the end of the summer, even after the transfer window had closed that the rumours fired up. Griezmann had decided to part ways with his agent: “I’m going to operate without an agent but I will always have the advice of my father and also my mentor, Eric Olhats,” which led many to assume that he wanted to redirect his career.
During winter of 2016, the rumours of a possible move to Manchester United arose as Jose Mourinho wanted to land the French man at all costs. This, fuelled by the way Griezmann had always talked openly about his affection for the club, and his brother constantly posting United-related messages on social media, really made it seem like more than just journalists trying to gain clicks.
But Griezmann also decided it would be a good idea to not reject a future interest from Atleti rivals, Real Madrid: “I don’t discard anything”, he said just hours after L’Equipe assured he’d be playing at the Bernabéu the following season. This clearly didn’t go down well with Atleti fans, who see one of their players moving to Real as the worst possible move one could make.
Eventually it seemed that the deal would happen, not for Los Blancos though,+ but for United, with Griezmann himself going on talk show before the end of the season and saying that the chances of him playing for the Red Devils in the 2017/18 season were “six out of ten” and days later stating that he was “ready to leave and win trophies.”
But there was one thing neither Griezmann nor United were counting on and that was the transfer ban Atletico were hit with. How could he leave his team without their star player and no possible way to replace him? Staying seemed like the only option, but not before a long renegotiation of his contract, seeing his salary rise substantially. Griezmann announced he would stay for at least another season as soon as Atletico were given their verdict on the ban. Most fans seemed to turn a blind eye to his recent statements and decided to ‘forgive and forget’ after he signed the new contract.
But the mics just kept on getting closer to Antoine and he couldn’t seem to keep his mouth shut. || With United well and truly out of the picture, Barcelona emerged as front runners to sign the forward in the coming summer of 2018. It’s said that Griezmann had a verbal, possibly even signed, pre-agreement with the Catalan club in November 2017.
The fact that Atletico were knocked out of the Champions League in the group stages didn’t help them convince Antoine that there was a stable and growing project within the club. However, they did go on to win the Europa League, being this Griezmann’s first real title of his career.
In the celebration of the trophy at the fountain of Neptuno, Atleti fans sang “Griezmann quédate” (Griezmannn stay), with no response from the French man. Fans felt that it was the perfect moment to announce if he was staying and drew their own conclusions from his silence. Days later in the last match of the season at the Metropolitano, Griezmann received boos from the fans, resulting in him crying during the match. Captain Diego Godín saw himself obliged to go and tell the fans that he was staying. The stadium then cheered his name but with still no real confirmation that he would be there next year.
With the season over and the World Cup in sight, everyone had an opinion on what Griezmann was going to do but no matter how many interviews he did, he just wouldn’t reveal what club he’d be playing at the following year. With France’s World Cup debut just days away, it was announced that a very Lebron style documentary called ‘The Decision’ would air on the 14th of June with Griezmann finally telling the world where he’d play. Everyone knows what happened: he stayed.
His motives are still unknown but the 23 million euro salary Atleti offered probably played a big part in his decision; also the fact that he was given captaincy and getting the club to sign Thomas Lemar. He was basically given the keys to the club. All to announce his exit less than a year later in a somewhat pathetic manner after he spent a large part of the season saying that he was happy and wanted to win things at the club, talking about how much he loved Atleti, his teammates and coach in his World Cup documentary; kissing the badge in his celebration vs Dortmund; his sister stating that they were tired of constant rumors… not to forget that he would only sign a new contract on the condition that his release clause shift from 200M to 120M on July 1st 2019.
Griezmann is now part of Atleti’s history, no one can take that away from him. But being part of history doesn’t always mean being remembered. And that’s exactly what Griezmann has managed, or, by default, not managed to achieve. To be an incredible player but just another guy that put on the shirt and left out the back door.
By: Cristiano Oliveira / @10CO10
Featured Image: Getty Images