'Magnificent' Griezmann still loved at Atleti but Barca unlikely to sell

By Sports Desk May 19, 2021

Atletico Madrid president Enrique Cerezo would welcome Antoine Griezmann back to the club, though he does not expect Barcelona to sell a player who has not hit the expected heights at Camp Nou.

Griezmann joined Barca from their LaLiga rivals in July 2019, a year after a heavily rumoured move had initially appeared set to happen.

Instead, the France international decided to remain in Madrid for one more season, during which he scored 15 league goals. It was his lowest output for a top-flight campaign while at Atleti, who had signed him from Real Sociedad in 2014.

However, linking up with Lionel Messi at Barca has not quite panned out as hoped.

In two years at Barca, the 30-year-old has managed 34 goals in 98 appearances in all competitions. His second season has seen an improvement (19 scored, compared to 15 in the previous term), but he is still more of a peripheral figure than the focal point he once was at his previous club.

While he has started 44 games under Ronald Koeman in 2020-21, Griezmann has been substituted in 27 of them. His conversion rate on chances deemed ‘big’ by Opta (where a player is expected to score) has dipped slightly, yet his 11 open-play goals in LaLiga is actually in line with an xG of 10.5.

 

Cerezo, however, is in no doubt about the forward’s qualities, even if a return to the Wanda Metropolitano appears highly unlikely.

"He is a magnificent player, but I don't think Barca wants to sell Griezmann,” the Atleti president said while appearing on the El Larguero show on Cadena SER.

"I think any team would be crazy to have Griezmann.

"He had magnificent seasons with us and I think he became a football player at Atletico Madrid.”

A sensational swap deal involving Joao Felix has been rumoured, though Cerezo was quick to shut down the possibility of the Portuguese youngster, who has had his own issues living up to expectations in Madrid, moving on in the next transfer window.

"There's no way he leaves," he said. "He has to adapt, but when he takes off, he'll be one of the most important players on the planet."

So what next for Griezmann? His focus will soon switch to France’s bid for Euro 2020 glory, but is he certain to stay at Barca?

The LaLiga club have been linked with Erling Haaland and soon-to-be free agent Memphis Depay, suggesting a focus on adding attacking options for a new board determined to turn around the team’s fortunes on and off the pitch.

"A cycle has finished and we are working to carry out a renovation," Barca president Joan Laporta said at the Festa de l'Esport Catala on Tuesday.

"We have been eliminated from the Champions League very early and the league has been lost in an incomprehensible way.

"I'm talking about the end of the cycle and renewal because that's what I think needs to be done.”

Heading back to Atleti seems highly unlikely – Barca will not want to make the same mistake twice, having let Luis Suarez head there on the cheap – but Griezmann must wait to see if he will be brushed to one side amid potentially sweeping changes in Barcelona.

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