It’s no coincidence Manchester United informed journalists that Antoine Griezmann was no longer their top transfer target shortly after it was confirmed Atletico Madrid’s transfer ban had been upheld by the Court of Arbitration for Sport last week.
The Red Devils were expected to sign the world-class French forward this summer - and they could still do so if the wish. All they’d need to do is trigger Griezmann’s £85 million release clause and convince the player to move to Old Trafford.
But this is where they encounter a major problem: Griezmann doesn’t want to leave Atletico unless his current employers are able to sign a replacement.
Atleti were expected to sign the Lyon striker Alexandre Lacazette, who would have the unenviable task of filling the void left by Griezmann, but their ban means the France international would be ineligible to play until January.
Griezmann, who has an excellent relationship with his manager Diego Simeone, has subsequently given his word to stay put with the Rojiblancos until at least 2018.
"The ruling of the CAS has come through. Atletico cannot recruit. With my sporting advisor, Eric Olhats, we decided to stay," the 26-year-old was quoted as saying by Sky Sports.
"It's a hard time for the club. It would be a dirty move to leave now. We talked to the leaders and we will be back for next season."
United are now actively pursuing other forwards - although the leaked line that they’re looking for a No. 9 rather than a No. 10 should be taken with a pinch of salt.
They wanted Griezmann, there’s no doubt about that.
How Griezmann could still end up at United
In fact, it’s probably fair to assume they still do.
According to the Manchester Evening News, there’s still a chance that Griezmann could end up at Old Trafford later this summer.
A small chance, perhaps, but a chance nonetheless.
How? Well, United are apparently willing to make a U-turn on their Griezmann decision if they fail to land their new priority targets before the 2017-18 campaign gets underway in August.
The club’s executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward is prepared to go back for Griezmann if, by the eve of the new season, he’s failed to secure any of the targets on Jose Mourinho’s revised summer wish-list.
Still, convincing Griezmann to leave Atleti will be fair from straightforward. Leaving the Spanish club in the lurch after giving his word would tarnish his legacy at the Vicente Calderon - soon to be the Wanda Metropolitano - forever.
Woodward needs to deliver one of Mourinho's other targets
So if Woodward is relying on Griezmann as a back-up option, he better hope he manages to sign one of the stars on Mourinho’s list.
It’s understood that Real Madrid forward Alvaro Morata is the forward Mourinho is now intent on signing.
Good luck, Ed. It seems you might need it.
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