About nine months ago, Antoine Griezmann was keeping the football world in suspense concerning his next career move.
FC Barcelona were known to be interested in acquiring his services and were willing to pay his €100 million release clause. In fact, so confident were the Catalans of unveiling the Frenchman at the Camp Nou, that president Josep Maria Bartomeu let it be known that the player would be wearing the Blaugrana in 2018/19.
Those statements came a week or so before ‘The Decision,’ a contrived documentary surrounding the process of coming to a final decision about his future, somewhat ironically made by Gerard Pique’s company, Kosmos.
As it transpired, the future World Cup winner decided to stay put at Atletico Madrid, citing it as his home, but also because he wanted to spearhead the charge for trophies.
With a new €20m per season salary – more than double Diego Costa’s and causing huge problems as a result – Griezmann had to deliver on the biggest stages to justify the Rojiblancos’ outlay.
His first opportunity came in the UEFA Super Cup final against old foes Real Madrid. A 4-2 win, and a comprehensive performance from Diego Simeone’s side, hinted at Griezmann perhaps having made the right decision after all.
However, he was subbed before the hour mark after doing nothing of note. Frankly, he was his team’s worst player, though it was blamed on fatigue from his World Cup exertions.
With 12 league goals to his name this season, far and away the best return for Atleti, one could also try to argue that he has become the talismanic figure he’d promised. That’s until you drill down into some of the detail.
Two of his strikes were against relegation-threatened Rayo Vallecano, one came against rock-bottom Huesca, and when a big goalscoring performance has been required, he’s nowhere to be seen.
No goals against Barcelona, one against Real Madrid which meant nothing in a 3-1 loss… completely anonymous in the second leg at Juventus.
Sergio Ramos famously told him to pipe down when it came to putting forward his candidacy for the Ballon d’Or, and you’d have to agree with the Real captain’s assessment given that Griezmann hasn’t stood up to be counted when it matters most.
Once Cristiano Ronaldo had scored Juve’s first, the Frenchman needed to respond. To deliver. To drag his team through to the next round.
He did nothing, Atleti’s dreams of playing the biggest European football final at their own stadium in tatters after a Ronaldo masterclass.
Griezmann hasn’t found the net in his last five straight games in all competitions, and that’s simply not good enough for someone who turned down Barca’s overtures because he was certain he would lead his side to the promised land.
Well, as things stand at the moment, unless the Catalans have a dip in form and lose as many league games in the next two months as they have in the last 18, then it will be them and not Atleti that parade the La Liga trophy come May.
Moreover, Ernesto Valverde’s side are in another Copa del Rey final and whilst it will be difficult against a Valencia side celebrating their centenary, the Blaugrana remain favourites to secure an unprecedented fifth successive cup win.
Oh, and just to rub salt into the wounds, at the time of writing they’re still in the hunt for a third treble in 10 years.
Griezmann could well have been part of that success but instead chose to remain with a side that are on course to win diddly-squat, save for the relatively meaningless Super Cup.
Pretty bad ‘decision’ wouldn’t you say, Antoine?