Just 12 months after declaring his undying love for Atletico Madrid, Antoine Griezmann has broken thousands of Rojiblanco hearts with the news that he will leave the club at the end of the season.
Followers of the club will be wondering how things could’ve gone so wrong in the space of a year, but it was probably Griezmann’s ‘decision’ to stay which sparked the chain of events that has led to him leaving.
Once Diego Costa found out the extortionate pay rise the World Cup winner had been afforded, he was in the ear of Diego Simeone and the board incessantly across the season.
Lucas Hernandez, courted by Europe’s top teams, found that with hardly any money left in the Atleti pot, he would only earn more elsewhere, prompting a switch to Bayern Munich, which will be official from July 1.
Since that announcement in March, club captain Diego Godin has confirmed his departure, as has Juanfran, with Filipe Luis expected to follow suit.
Two of the club’s best midfielders, Rodri and Saul, are also being monitored by various interested parties.
From believing that Atleti would be serious challengers in La Liga and Europe, to a large-scale restructuring of playing staff within 12 months, has to be why Griezmann has decided to jump ship too.
It’s as obvious now as it was when he originally decided to stay put that the Frenchman can fulfil all of his desires in a professional sense alongside Lionel Messi too.
Indeed, he has a better chance of winning a coveted Ballon d’Or whilst having the Argentinian as a colleague rather than an opponent… as Neymar has found out.
But would his hire represent a panic buy for the Catalans?
After all, he will be 29 during the course of the 2019/20 season. If 26/27/28 are generally accepted as the peak years for a player (Luis Suarez was signed at 27 for example), then Griezmann is on the way down again, rather than up.
At a cost of €120 million, the Frenchman won’t come cheap, and in terms of longevity, thinking along the lines of him having another five seasons at best, it doesn’t really ensure that Barca get any resale value from the transfer either, should they decide to cash in later on.
Perhaps most troubling of all is how he’ll fit, stylistically, into this Barcelona side.
Many of the positions that he takes up and the runs he makes for Atleti are similar to what Messi does for the Blaugrana.
If anything, a ‘battering ram’ of a centre-forward, not unlike Suarez, would be a perfect foil for Dembele’s pace and Messi’s guile.
One of the biggest things in Griezmann’s favour is that he is the finished article and there’s no questioning his ability. He’s thrived on the biggest of stages and to that end, can slot into the dressing room without any issue.
Supporters will be hoping that his footballing nous can make him more of a success at the Camp Nou than Philippe Coutinho, who arrived amidst a similar fanfare but has never been able to live up to expectations.
He’ll argue he’s often had to play out of position and that’s a fate which may well befall Griezmann too.
Barcelona are in the position where they can’t afford to make any more transfer mistakes… but that’s when panic sets in.