It was a signing that was a year in the making, but Antoine Griezmann has finally arrived at FC Barcelona.
Twelve months ago, an ill-advised documentary ‘La Decision,’ ended with the Frenchman proclaiming his loyalty to Atletico Madrid, however, things haven’t worked out with the Rojiblancos.
It’s believed that the World Cup winner began negotiating his move to the Catalans as long ago as March, something that has irked the club that are now his former employers.
Though they had to reluctantly accept that the player, as with many of his colleagues, saw his future elsewhere, their main bugbear is that Barca entered those negotiations when Griezmann’s buyout clause was €200m, but waited until July 1 when that fee went down to €120m before executing the deal.
The business side of the transaction may yet see claim and counterclaim, but the fact remains that Griezmann is now a Barca player.
Regardless of the morals and ethics – or lack of them – behind the move, it’s a fantastic deal for the Catalans and a great move for the striker.
Atleti came mightily close to a maiden Champions League win with Griezmann in situ, but they were denied on both occasions by rivals Real Madrid.
Barcelona haven’t won it since 2015 and should now find that they have an altogether better chance with one of the world’s best players added to their ranks.
Even if they don’t go on to sign Neymar, a deal that’s a long way from completion at the time of writing, Griezmann’s movement and intelligence will certainly add something to Barca’s front line.
Griezmann in place of Coutinho?
Whilst nobody can yet claim to know what Ernesto Valverde is thinking in terms of how he will construct his XI, nor what the club’s wishes are in terms of which players they wish to retain or sell, having the Frenchman on their left side in place of Philippe Coutinho would seem an obvious choice.
Wherever he’s stationed, Griezmann should see his role change from the one he had at Atleti. For a start, it’s unlikely he’ll need to drop as deep and do as much running at Barca as he did at Atleti.
He was more effective for the Rojiblancos in his first years there when he was less involved in the build-up play and more predatory and clinical. It was always a strength of his and Valverde needs to somehow tap into that.
It could even see a change of shape and style from the Basque coach, something that he might not be overly comfortable with, but Griezmann must be accommodated because he has the presence to unsettle opponents.
The fifth most expensive signing of all time, the player himself will know he’s starting over and has an awful lot to prove.
What the move does tell us, however, is that he’s motivated and hungry to do just that otherwise he might as well have stayed at Atleti where he was comfortably the best paid in the side, and indeed their highest earner ever.
The machinations of the transfer may always leave a sour taste for Atleti, and yet if they invest the money wisely there’s every chance that they too will benefit from the switch.