The rich got richer this week in Spanish football. Barcelona, who suffered the humiliation of giving up four goals in the Champions League semifinal second leg to Liverpool, announced they will sign Atletico Madrid’s Antoine Griezmann for €125 million this offseason.
Barcelona have come to terms with Atletico Madrid by agreeing to pay the World Cup winner’s contract release clause. The announcement of Griezmann’s move comes less than a year after the Frenchman publicly stated he didn’t want to join Barcelona. This time last year, Barcelona was ready to add the forward to their squad only for Griezmann to sign a new five-year Atletico Madrid contract.
What has changed for Antoine Griezmann?
Griezmann’s decision to re-sign came after Atletico Madrid’s Europa League win in 2018. The club backed their star player in the transfer market with players expected to take Atletico Madrid to the La Liga title in 2018-19. Griezmann, who won the World Cup last summer and can be forgiven for being fatigued all season long, received little backing from his teammates in the goalscoring department.
While Atletico Madrid have La Liga’s best defence – the Spanish top flight season ends this weekend – allowing 27 goals, the problem has been the team’s attack. Atletico Madrid have scored only 53 goals, the league’s fifth most. In a league featuring Barcelona and Real Madrid, that is nowhere near good enough in a title race.
Griezmann is the only Atletico Madrid player to reach double-digit goals this season with 19 in all competitions. At 28-years old, Griezmann is entering the point in his career where he will most likely begin a decline. There are a lot of miles on his body and this season has shown the effects of a full 12-months of football.
A twice in a lifetime opportunity
The Frenchman may never get another chance to join Barcelona and win trophies. It is a move that he cannot be faulted for making.
But is Griezmann a player Barcelona need? Certainly, Barcelona have signed players to be the final piece of their “Big 3” alongside Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez. Philippe Coutinho and Ousmane Dembele were both supposed to be that third man, the player Neymar once was. Yet, both have failed to stay fit or to find consistent form.
Barcelona are on pace to spend a lot of money this summer on new players. Griezmann will join for €125m and will be accompanied by Ajax’s midfielder Frenkie de Jong for €75m. They are not the only players expected to arrive at Camp Nou as Barcelona are in need of a squad makeover.
Messi and Suarez have accounted for 63% of Barcelona’s goals this season. The reliance the club has had on the duo is incredible, but so is the lack of competition the clubs at the bottom of La Liga have given them. Liverpool’s pressing was a punch in the mouth to Barcelona and they couldn’t handle it in the second leg. It was the second time in two season’s Barcelona gave up a second-leg lead in humiliating fashion.
How will Barcelona play with Antoine Griezmann?
Griezmann’s addition on the left-hand side of a front three will enable Barcelona to have a naturally left footed player. It will also give manager Ernesto Valverde the chance to position Griezmann on the right side allowing him to cut inside on his left foot. The Frenchman can play through the middle as a No. 9 to give Suarez so much needed rest. Griezmann gives Valverde a number of tactical possibilities.
Although Griezmann is 28-years old, both Messi and Suarez are on the wrong side of 30. It is debatable how much longer either has at the top of the game. In truth, Messi looks just as unstoppable as he did 10 years ago. However, Suarez’s past injuries look to be catching up to him at times.
Griezmann could have stayed at Atletico Madrid and become a legend at the club. Yet, Atletico Madrid missed a golden opportunity to win the league this season and their capitulation against Juventus in the Champions League showed they just don’t have the squad to win trophies right now.
Will Griezmann succeed at Barcelona? He has been exceeding expectations since the day he was told he was too small to be a professional football player. Why would anything be different at Camp Nou?