Explained: The ceaseless saga of Barcelona and Antoine Griezmann

Antoine Griezmann of Atletico de Madrid during the La Liga match between RCD Espanyol and Atletico de Madrid in RCD Stadium in Barcelona 04 of May of 2019, Spain. (Photo by Xavier Bonilla/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Antoine Griezmann of Atletico de Madrid during the La Liga match between RCD Espanyol and Atletico de Madrid in RCD Stadium in Barcelona 04 of May of 2019, Spain. (Photo by Xavier Bonilla/NurPhoto via Getty Images) /

Barcelona and Antoine Griezmann have been embroiled in saga for over a year

The story of Barcelona and Antoine Griezmann began in the months leading up to last season’s summer transfer window. Luis Suárez was facing heavy flak for an extremely poor season where his fitness and performance deteriorated consistently till the end.

Barça technical secretary Robert Fernández was under a lot of pressure to sign a successor to the ageing ‘El Pistolero’. He looked far and wide but ended up choosing a very familiar face in the La Liga, Atlético Madrid superstar Antoined Griezmann.

The France international was on the back of a very prolific season, having scored 29 goals and provided 15 assists in 49 appearances in all competitions for Los Rojiblancos. He was nominated for both FIFA Player of the Year award and the Ballon d’Or for his performances.

It was a drawn-out negotiation of which Atlético were not a part. They had already stated that Barça would have to activate Griezmann’s €100 million release in order to sign him. The club was willing to pay up, but the difficult part was convincing Griezmann.

The centre-forward saw himself as central to Diego Simeone’s plans for the future, but there was the allure of Barça. The talks went on for 2 months, and Griezmann was to have the last word. Barcelona had confidence in its ability to convince the star to leave Atlético.

But everyone at the club was left crushed as Griezmann ended the saga temporarily in extremely melodramatic fashion, by releasing a documentary about the reasons for his decision to stay at Atlético. He also penned a new deal, with an increased release clause.

But the primary reason why Griezmann stayed on at Atlético was a thirst for glory. If he could guide Atlético, the eternal underdogs, to Champions League glory, he would immortalise himself as a shining star of European football.

But Griezmann ended up disappointed by the end of last season, as Atlético failed to get their hands on a single piece of major silverware. They finished runners-up in the La Liga, and were eliminated in the round of 16 in both the Champions League and the Copa del Rey.

Griezmann still ended the season as Atlético’s best performer, but decided to leave for good this time. The fact that his release clause had dropped down to €120 million from €200 million release clause would facilitate that departure. And thus, the saga was restarted.

Barça president Josep Maria Bartomeu is a huge admirer of Antoine Griezmann, and he didn’t make any bones about it when Griezmann became available again. He started pushing for the signing within the club despite facing resistance from senior functionaries.

Bartomeu also contacted Atlético CEO Gil Marín about Griezmann’s signing. Barça were now firmly back in the race for Griezmann, and much ahead of second-placed Manchester United. From then on, the situation has become especially muddled.

Barça faced a huge setback when attacking target Luka Jović chose to sign for Real Madrid, and doubled up on efforts to sign Griezmann even as he announced that he would no longer remain at Atlético. After that, Paris Saint-Germain entered the race.

PSG president Nasser Al-Khelaifi expressed interested in bringing Griezmann to the Parc de Princes, and the surprising contenders managed to get a lead over Barcelona for a while. But then, Gil Marín made a very bizarre claim that he knows that Griezmann would move to Barça.

The latest development in this scenario is Bartomeu’s rebuttal to Marín. But the club president is yet to confirm or deny that Griezmann could be joining Barça. This means that the transfer saga will trickle down into the upcoming transfer window as well.

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As things stand now, Barça look set to sign Griezmann. At the age of 28 and after a trophyless season, he is not a good signing at a massive fee of €120 million. But it seems that a lack of an alternative and Bartomeu’s obsession with him will ultimately bring him to the Camp Nou.