“Being Messi’s lieutenant played a part”, said Antoine Griezmann when asked about his rejection of Barcelona. While he also admitted that Atletico raised the stakes by showing him how their team was built around him, it is that statement that has stuck with most football fans.
And you cannot blame them. Leo Messi, one of the best players to ever play the game. An obstacle in a transfer. Those three sentences don’t really go together, do they?
The great Argentine is a force in himself, but his amazing and sometimes supernatural play casts a very big shadow over the rest of the squad in Barcelona. Just ask Neymar.
So did Antoine Griezmann make the right decision? We will never know.
But we can put in an argument for both sides and let you decide.
GRIEZMANN MADE THE RIGHT DECISION IN CHOOSING TO STAY
This Argument is not very hard to make. Griezmann is a World Cup winner, a Europa League winner and one of the best players to play in the world. After finishing second to Cristiano Ronaldo in almost every award and final in 2017, Griezmann has rebounded and added silverware to his trophy cabinet.
A player like him, one who was the centrepoint of a World Cup winning attack, deserves a system being built around him rather than having to be accommodated into one. At Atletico, he is the club’s best player. He has the trust of the manager and that of his team week in and week out regardless of his performances. They have seen what he can do, and how often he can do it and are glad to have him.
The same however cannot be said at Barcelona. The Catalan giants will be reliant on Leo Messi as long as he is on the pitch. They are therefore never going to make Griezmann the centrepiece or tweak their system, one which has been honed without the Frenchman, for him.
Add to that the plethora of stars on show at the Camp Nou and competition for places in his favoured role, think Suarez and Coutinho, and it is very likely that he would have been the third or the fourth best player at the club let alone the world.
Therefore, it made sense for him to stay at the Wanda Metropolitano. Atleti are his team and he is their best player. This afforded him the leeway from a dip in form or extensive defensive duties (although his defensive duties are pretty big) to showcase his incredible talent.
In short, Big fish, slightly smaller pond.
REJECTING BARCELONA COULD COME BACK TO HAUNT HIM
Sure, Griezmann is a World Cup winner. So is Fernando Llorente.
While this is not a knock on the Spaniard, it just goes to show not many people remember World Cup winners for very long. And even if they do remember France’s World Cup winning side, they might choose to remember Kylian Mbappe’s heroics over Griezmann’s.
Sure, he scored 4 and assisted 2 more, but Mbappe’s coming of age is more likely to go down in history than his statistics.
Griezmann’s club record is also amazing. However, he only has one Europa League, one Spanish Super Cup and one UEFA Super Cup to show for it.
Making Champions Leagues finals doesn’t count. Finishing second to Cristiano doesn’t count.
This was Griezmann’s chance at winning without having to carry almost all the workload. At the Camp Nou, Leo Messi does the carrying. Griezmann could’ve simply tagged along. The star studded lineup with him at Barcelona would have created a monster in attack.
Griezmann, Suarez and Messi with Phillipe Coutinho behind them. The quartet would’ve simply outscored every opponent they played. Sure, he would no longer play up top but would have had to come in from the left. But that wouldn’t have mattered much. The France forward did afterall begin his career on the wings for Sociedad before moving to a more central role.
A move to Barcelona would’ve been his chance at collecting trophies while sacrificing some of the personal glory he would receive at Atletico.
But that would have surely been worth it, would it not?
Personal Glory or Trophies? Leaving behind a legacy at Atletico or moving to Barcelona to enhance his reputation and prove himself to be a serial winner?
While we may never know how the move might have panned out, this failed move hangs around as a big question mark in Antoine Griezmann’s legacy as a football player.Published 19 Nov 2018, 15:08 IST