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Antoine Griezmann is a household name in the Spanish top-flight, that ranks up there with some of the greatest to ever play in the La Liga. He rose to prominence while playing with Atletico Madrid’s kit for 5 years and is now signed to the opposition – the colossus Barcelona. However, things haven’t gone as smoothly as he himself probably expected, and that’s what we will cover in this article. What went wrong with Antoine Griezmann’s career? Bur first, let’s dip into a brief biographical overview of the Frenchman’s journey in football so far.
Born in the small city of Mâcon, east-central France in 1991, Griezmann's first touch with football was at the age of 6 with the local club named after the city. An interesting fact that often gets overlooked is that despite his parents not having any sports background, his grandfather was a footballer and played for the Portuguese side Pacos de Ferreira. During his years as a kid, he often signed up for trials at different clubs, in order to earn a spot in their youth academy. It was in 2005 while playing a trial for Montpellier vs. Paris Saint-Germain that impressed and earned his breakthrough. However, it wasn't a French team that was ready to sign him. It turns out that Real Sociedad had scouts spectating the youth game who were quite impressed by the then 14-year-old. Impressed enough the Spanish club offered him a two-week trial which was followed by his first contract. This is how Griezmann became part of La Liga. We should note that up to this day, he hasn't played in a league outside Primera Division.
What followed was years of hard work, which paid off in 2009, when the Frenchman earned a promotion to the senior squad. At the time Sociedad was playing in Segunda Division, the second tier of Spanish football. With a total of 39 appearances and 6 goals during his debut season, Griezmann contributed to the promotion of his squad. It took him a couple of more years before he completely released his potential. At first, he averaged less than 10 goals per season, but during his final campaign of 2013-2014 with Real Sociedad, he managed to find the net 20 times across all competitions. This is what prompted Atletico Madrid’s interest.
With Atleti, Griezmann needed no time to settle in and immediately began scoring goal after goal at Wanda Metropolitano. By the time he left Atletico, the Frenchman found the net on average 27 times per campaign and was especially efficient in the Champions League. At the time he was the Atleti’s star player and was sitting at a comfortable position result-wise. He exclaimed at an interview “Real Madrid have Ronaldo, Barcelona has Messi, and Atletico has me“. However, at one point he must have felt the need to change things up. Perhaps it was the lack of trophies on his record that prompted him to agree to Barcelona's offer in 2019. On a club level, Griezmann's honors list is quite limited with just three major trophies – Supercopa de España in 2014, the Europa League in 2018, and the UEFA Super Cup again in 2018. It’s possible that the Frenchman was eager to lift the Champions League or the Primera Division trophy and Barca persuaded him with exactly these options. However, his transfer to Camp Nou seems to be a flop in some ways. Let’s dig into that.
What went wrong for Antoine Griezmann in Barcelona?
It took Barca a huge effort to sign the 2018 World Cup winner, with the Catalans chasing him for several transfer windows. After this has finally happened though, it seems that both sides are unhappy with the situation. When we take a look at Griezmann’s goal tally per season, we can easily spot his downfall while with the Catalans. His debut season at Camp Nou provided 15 goals, which may not seem too bad, but considering that the last time he found the net so scarcely was during his time at Real Sociedad. At the current campaign, the striker is progressing at the same rate as he did last year, but this time around his team is missing Luis Suarez. This would mean that Griezmann would be expected to score more which so far isn't happening.
So what went wrong? In simple words, Griezmann's downfall can be credited to Barcelona. The Catalans were so eager to buy a player, that they have virtually no need of, and now people are blaming the striker, rather than the transfer by itself. The situation is quite similar to Philippe Coutinho's unsuccessful stay at Barca.
Arriving at Camp Nou, everyone knew that the Frenchman is a versatile forward player, which prefers his two main positions – either in an upfront duo, where he is the more mobile and freely moving striker, or on the right-wing. The main reason for his downfall, was him being played in the wrong position. For his first season, he couldn't establish himself as a part of the front duo, as this was Messi and Suarez's field of expertise. However, he wasn't played on the right win either, because that where Suarez would fall back to when defending. Instead, Griezmann was employed as a left-winger, which didn't net the expected results. Even though the Uruguayan striker is no longer part of Barca, Messi remains as the center-forward, while Ousman Dembele gets deployed on the right-wing. This makes Griezmann continue to struggle on the left side of the pitch. Furthermore, he has expressed that he finds Barcelona players' movement on and off the ball confusing, and he has lost confidence when to shoot and when to pass. Also, at Barca, he gets overshadowed by the all-time super-star of the club Lionel Messi. While at the Atleti, the Frenchman was the most frequent target for his teammates’ passes, now it’s different, because the Catalans tend to search for Messi over Griezmann when passing the ball. Even Griezmann is forced to forfeit the ball to Lionel frequently which limits his own chance-creating. Another thing that has decreased his offensive performance is the fact that at Barca he is used as a 4th midfielder in a 4-3-3 formation while defending. This has also resulted in an increased number of tackles by the Frenchman.
All in all, Griezmann may have been worth the €120 Million that Barcelona paid for him. However, the transfer wasn’t worth it neither for him nor the club. It’s simply a wrong place at the wrong time situation, which may waste some of his prime years though.