If Antoine Griezmann’s choice to film a documentary about his decision to stay at Atletico Madrid or join Barcelona seemed overzealous last summer, it now looks ridiculous.
Despite publicly snubbing the Catalan giants, Griezmann has decided to leave the Wanda Metropolitano following a wasted season treading water.
Regardless, Barcelona are vying for his signature once again and are well placed to land the French forward, although his potential arrival at Camp Nou creates various risks for the club.
Paltry pickings for a 28-year-old of his quality, and the driving factor behind his decision to leave Atletico – albeit one which he lost sight of when rejecting Barcelona.
The forward, and perhaps more pertinently, his advisors, including his sister Maud, were blinded from the bigger picture by Atletico gold.
If Griezmann joins Barcelona, he will likely take a pay cut from his monumental €20 million plus a year contract in Madrid.
Perhaps it’s too simplistic, not to mention futile, to reduce it to ifs and buts, but Barcelona would have killed Liverpool off comfortably at Camp Nou if they had a player of Griezmann’s profile.
The striker himself would have a league title in the bank and be preparing to play in another Champions League final.
Ousmane Dembele might have been the man who buried Liverpool, but shot lamely at Alisson Becker when he should have scored Barcelona’s fourth. With his killer instinct, Griezmann would have been less forgiving.
Antoine Griezmann Atletico Madrid 2018-19
However the French forward would arrive at Camp Nou not to replace Dembele but to help get the best out of him.
The former Borussia Dortmund winger has had two troubled years at Barcelona but Griezmann’s landing would be like the arrival of an older brother, someone to provide guidance and support.
So where would the Frenchman play? On paper he would be the replacement for Luis Suarez, now 32, as Barcelona’s new No 9.
However Lionel Messi’s best mate is not going anywhere just yet.
Despite not scoring away from home in the Champions League since 2015, in La Liga Suarez is still a shark, tearing into Barcelona’s opponents with relish.
The striker ripped into Griezmann at the last World Cup too, mocking the curious affection the Frenchman has for Uruguay.
Sharing a close relationship with outgoing Atletico captain Diego Godin – who is the godfather to Griezmann’s youngest daughter – the forward claims to be half-Uruguayan.
“As much as he says he’s half Uruguayan, he’s French,” said Suarez during the World Cup. “He does not really know what the feeling of a Uruguayan is.”
Before too long Suarez might be sipping his mate drink on the bench, watching Griezmann run around in his stead.
Griezmann won that battle and the war too, lifting the World Cup with France and draping himself in a Uruguayan flag after defeating Croatia in Moscow.
Suarez isn’t alone – Barcelona’s fans made their stance on Griezmann clear during the team’s 2-0 win over Atletico on April 6, chanting crude ditties about him.
Joan Laporta Playing Surface
“I think most Barca fans don’t want him, and on top of that, I think the prices they are quoting are exaggerated,” said former Barcelona president Joan Laporta. “I think that there are other players with great potential who could do perfectly well what Griezmann could do at Barca.”
But football can be more fickle than an English summer and should Griezmann run 60 yards to set up Suarez for a tap-in in the first game of the season, Barcelona fans and the real Uruguayan will embrace the new arrival with open arms.
Griezmann’s versatility is a trait which will help him at Barcelona. The forward plays centrally for France and Atletico Madrid, with licence to roam, but can also play on the left flank as he used to do for Real Sociedad.
That means he can operate in the middle instead of Suarez, or on the wing alongside him.
If Griezmann is moved out to the left he can make runs into the box, rather than dropping deep in Messi’s way, as Philippe Coutinho sometimes does when deployed on the left flank.
With 133 strikes in 256 appearances for Atletico, Griezmann will add a goal threat which was never properly replaced after Neymar left in 2017.
But there are question marks over whether this transfer would be worth it.
By the end of next season Griezmann will be 29 and €120m is a steep fee to pay for a player whom you might only get three top-level years from.
Yet football, more than ever, is about the present moment. That is reflected in Barcelona’s 2015 Champions League win seeming like an age ago.
If Griezmann helps Barcelona win that trophy next season, his signing is an instant success.
There is future proofing going on elsewhere, with Frenkie de Jong arriving and Matthijs de Ligt potentially joining him. Griezmann is for the here and now.
Whether he’s the right man is a question that can only be answered in time – and, from Barcelona’s point of view – in the Istanbul Champions League final on May 30, 2020.
Antoine Griezmann France Croatia World Cup 2018
Given the starting place of animosity, he would need to quickly adapt and succeed within the team or the supporters will quickly get on his back.
As is always the case, the key is Messi. If the Argentine sees Griezmann as someone who will help him achieve his goal of another European triumph, and the two click on the field, Barcelona can put their order for celebratory bunting in now.
But Coutinho was evidently the wrong man and the club appear to be taking stabs in the dark, trying to spike a formula that works.
The current set up with Messi on the right and Suarez in the middle was discovered by the players themselves by chance in-game – the club and Luis Enrique had planned for the Uruguayan to play on the right flank.
Barcelona will find it hard to get a buyer for their club record signing Coutinho – who is 26 – without making a loss.
So if Barcelona sign and later sell Griezmann there would be no doubt he would leave for a lot less than he came for. There is a long way to go before that though.
It is unlikely Griezmann’s representatives have become any easier to deal with over the past year. Paris Saint Germain, among other sides, are being heavily linked – and they can add to his Atletico salary, instead of subtracting.
But Barcelona are at the front of the queue – if they try and fail to sign Griezmann again it will be a brutal humiliation for the current board.
The clock is ticking with his release clause set to drop from €200m to €120m on July 1.
Griezmann might be the missing piece of the puzzle in the Champions League quest, or a diamond-encrusted booby trap. It’s up to Barcelona to pay and find out.