What a difference a year makes! This time last season, Antoine Griezmann looked washed-up, an expensive misfit, and a spent force. Now he’s arguably the most influential player in La Liga.
Griezmann has rolled back to the days when his name was on the Ballon d’Or voting slips and he was one of the most lauded players on the planet.
Sadly, he got above himself and clicked into rock-star mode. He self-produced a documentary La Decisión chronicling his life as he wrestled with a career move. The finalé was staying with Atlético in 2018. The film was out of date a year later when he sealed a €130 million move to Barcelona.
La Decisión to head to Barça was a disaster movie. He never settled at an unsettled club and the rock-star was a co-star to the club’s Hollywood cast.
Unwanted, he headed back to Atleti on loan with his ponytail between his legs. The fans were initially unforgiving and booed his every uncertain move.
Luckily for him, the coach Diego Simeone was an ally. A bizarre deal had been struck whereby a permanent transfer would be triggered if he played over 45 minutes in 80% of the games. Simeone needed a calculator and stop-watch for every match so he could introduce Griezmann without upsetting the accountants.
Eventually the coach persuaded the moneymen to cough up €20 million to secure a permanent deal and Griezmann was reborn. There was a skip in his step as he inspired France to the World Cup semi-final. His va-va-voom was back. Suddenly it looked like they’d pulled off one of the cheekiest transfers of all time.
Since the World Cup he’s been an inspiration. He’s weighed in with eight goals and nine assists this season; that calculates to having a hand in 45% of his club’s La Liga goals.
In late autumn, Atlético were in the doldrums after getting knocked out of the Champions League; it was all doom and gloom at the Metropolitano and for the first time in his legendary tenure, Simeone’s job was at risk.
Griezmann dug in, reinventing himself as a playmaker rather than a central striker. Atleti haven’t lost in eight Liga matches and qualification for the elite European competition looks like a formality again.
Simeone set a club-record for matches managed and immediately acknowledged his French lieutenant with a peck on the cheek following the 6-1 destruction of Sevilla, saying “I love the person that Griezmann is, but I value the footballer. The kiss is more for the footballer because of commitment. He had wonderful years, chose to leave, understood that he had to return; it was difficult for him to be the Griezmann we know.”
The relationship has been restored. Griezmann has matured. The fans love him again. It would probably make a watchable documentary but maybe he should just park that idea?
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