SPANISH football expert Guillem Balague casts his eye over the developments surrounding Antoine Griezmann’s future and how Barcelona’s interest could have an impact in the north west of England.
Everybody is preparing for the departure of Antoine Griezmann from Atletico Madrid. It’s quite clear that Manchester United approached the player last summer. He spoke to Jose Mourinho but decided to stay put, despite there being a big offer on the table. He stayed because of the transfer circumstances at Atletico – but nobody expects him to do the same next summer.
GRIEZMANN SAGA: Baffling response to blackface scandal
HALL OF SHAME: Twitter’s worst football blunders
RUMOUR MILL: City’s next world record deal, United eye old boy
CHELSEA GOSSIP: Luiz’s shock defection, Chelsea’s PL wing raid
As I’ve been saying all along, though, United are not the only team interested in Griezmann. Barcelona are willing to match his €100m buy-out clause and the club’s president, Josep Maria Bartomeu, has met Griezmann’s family for lunch, that’s because he doesn’t have an agent and his sister looks after his affairs. But it wasn’t only his sister that was there, perhaps tellingly, his parents were in attendance too.
Griezmann will leave next summer for either United or Barca, but the Catalans are favourites at this moment in time.
There is talk of Barcelona bringing in both Griezmann and Philippe Coutinho, but there are few problems with these reports. Firstly, Barca’s wage structure accounts for over 80 per cent of the club’s income. The wages are so high and they desperately need more income and that is what they are trying to work on. Until that’s secured, I don’t think they can afford both Griezmann and Coutinho.
As it stands, Liverpool have not put a price on Coutinho, regardless of what the Catalan press are saying. With the sources behind those stories coming from within the club, it sounds like Barcelona are looking for a reason to say Coutinho was too expensive and that they couldn’t afford him.
The figure being bandied about is €140m, it’s not true, but, of course, Barcelona can go back and say we couldn’t get Coutinho because it was too expensive but in the summer they might be able to show off Griezmann instead.
Balague believes Griezmann will stay at Atletico Madrid in the New Year, but that the club are preparing for life without him.
“Barcelona, Manchester United, Paris Saint-Germain and Real Madrid want him,” said Balague.
“I don’t think he has agreed anything with any club yet. Atletico have spoken to Barcelona about Griezmann but, again, nothing has been agreed.
“The destination will be decided by Griezmann and Griezmann alone. He is open to all of those possibilities.
“At this moment in time, I feel Manchester United are Barcelona are ahead of the other suitors.”
SIMEONE: HE CAN LEAVE
Diego Simeone has confirmed that Antoine Griezmann will be allowed to leave Atletico Madrid.
The 26-year-old is reported to be a target for a number of Europe’s largest clubs, with Manchester United linked with a move for the France international last summer.
Griezmann is expected to remain at Atletico for the remainder of the season, but it appears he has been given the all clear by Simeone to leave the club in the future.
“Of course Griezmann will be able to leave at some point, the same way (Diego) Costa and Arda Turan were allowed to leave,” Simeone told l’Equipe.
“I love my players a lot and I love to see them grow. I am not ungrateful.
“If a player comes to me and says: ‘Coach, I have a once in a lifetime chance to play for a certain team, I want to leave’.
“If he did all he could for me as Griezmann does, I’ll say it’s no problem. I know that he needs to grow.”
SUAREZ: WE CAN SIGN BOTH
Philippe Coutinho and Antoine Griezmann are the “elite” type of players Barcelona want to sign, says Luis Suarez.
Liverpool rejected three bids from Barcelona for Coutinho in the summer, including a £113m offer despite the midfielder handing in a transfer request.
Coutinho has pledged his continued commitment to Liverpool, despite admitting doubts over where his future lies earlier this month.
Suarez, who made the switch from Anfield to the Nou Camp in 2014, would welcome both players to the club.
“Both Griezmann and Coutinho are elite players that are playing at the top level,” Suarez told RAC105.
“They are where they are for a reason. They’re both young and have long careers ahead of them. And Barca always want the best players.”
Suarez insists there will still be room for himself in the Barcelona line-up, even if Griezmann does join.
“If you look at [Greizmann], at Atletico he needs to play with a No 9,” said Suarez.
“He’s not a fixed No. 9. Obviously, Griezmann would come here to add to the team and to help the side in the position that the coach wants him to play in.”
The Fox Football podcast gang are back to dissect another week packed with talking points, including their end of year awards.
Premier League|FOX SPORTS