The final hours of the transfer market yesterday, in a mad end, a triple operation that led to the return of Antoine Griezmann to Atlético as a loan for one season and another optional, and with a mandatory purchase clause of 40 million, the Saúl’s departure to Chelsea, also on a loan of five million and a purchase option of 40, and the arrival of the Dutchman Luuk de Jong to Barcelona from Sevilla, also under the formula of a loan. The three movements were linked according to the needs of each club. The rojiblancos needed to give way to Saúl, Barça to release salary mass and, at the same time, find a replacement to the liking of Ronald Koeman, who had requested a incorporation in the attack. Everything, however, was about to blow up in the last minutes due to the difficulties of closing the operation of Saúl and Chelsea. The agreement came in extremis and the other operations saw the green light.
Of this triple exchange, the Atlético league champion is the one that comes out with the most sporting strength. He has gotten rid of a player, Saúl, who was beginning to be a problem due to his tactical discrepancies with Diego Pablo Simeone, and brings together a bunch of offensive players that make him a serious candidate to fight with options all the titles. Griezmann joins Luis Suárez (who last year also made his way from Camp Nou to Wanda Metropolitano at low cost), João Félix, Correa, Carrasco, Lemar and Cunha. Few teams in Europe can command such respect with their roster of strikers. Only the trident of PSG, Messi, Neymar and Mbappé, or Manchester United, with the hiring of Cristiano Ronaldo, can present such a powerful poster in attack. Simeone will have to manage a cast of forwards that make up what may be the best squad in Atlético’s history.
After a first attempt at the beginning of the summer, with a failed Saúl-Griezmann exchange, the negotiations between Atlético and Barcelona sped up early in the afternoon on Tuesday. Saúl’s departure, which had been blocked on Monday by Atlético’s largest shareholder, Miguel Ángel Gil Marín, was reactivated. Everything changed yesterday when Barcelona, after the red-and-white leadership refused a Griezmann-João Félix exchange, learned that the Madrid entity was interested in negotiating for the French player alone. This put Saúl on his way to Chelsea and it only remained for Barcelona to find a replacement for the French striker. With the sevillista Luuk de Jong the circle of the great operation of the summer was closed after the signing of Messi by PSG and Cristiano Ronaldo by United.
The return of Griezmann, 30, to Atlético includes the necessary layers of paint with which the club will have to calm part of the rojiblanca fans, who do not keep a good memory of Griezmann’s departure to Barcelona, which amounted to 124 million euros. euros two years ago, and also from the previous summers, in which he threatened to leave. The great supporter of the French is Simeone, who since last summer has been trying to return one of the players who has filled him the most as a coach. He considers it a product of his, which he polished to the top of the European football showcase. El Cholo is Griezmann’s great safe-conduct before a large part of the fans who were extremely irritated with the games about their future every summer. The fans came to whistle him on more than one occasion for his continuous insinuations about a possible march, which ended up in the summer of 2019. The club will also have to forget that it had to denounce the Barça entity for negotiating with the footballer behind its back , which ended in an increase in the price a posteriori, about 15 million euros.
Griezmann returns to an Atlético league champion and in a more ambitious game context. The step forward taken by Simeone benefits him. The rojiblancos are no longer a team that speculates so much and waits for the rival in their own field. The latter also got to bored him in the final months of his first stage as rojiblanco.
The French striker leaves Barcelona without having been able to justify his price and with the memory of the whistles he heard last Sunday against Getafe. The return of the public to the Camp Nou has conditioned him. After three games without adding shots on goal, in the last game the fans grew impatient with the French. And Koeman, who always defended Griezmann for his ability to play for the team, gave in to the will of the sports management, who for months had been looking for a way out for the world champion with France in Russia 2018. The forward leaves Barcelona after 102 games, in which he scored 35 goals and signed 17 assists. Average participation in goals of 0.5 per game. A statistic that did not convince anyone at Barça, neither the technicians, nor the fans.
Already his arrival, after a first failed attempt, raised controversies in the Barcelona entity. In the summer of 2018, before starting his World Cup journey with France, Griezmann flirted with Barcelona. In a documentary produced by Gerard Piqué, one of the Barça captains, he said that he was staying one more season at Atlético. In the locker room, his decision drew attention after the heavyweights opened the doors to the Camp Nou. “Obviously I like it. It is one of the best right now. I don’t know if there is something with him or not, but we are delighted that the best are coming and Griezmann is one of them, ”Messi said at the time.
The attitude of the French annoyed the Barça group. A year later, however, Barça returned to the charge for Griezmann. This time Josep Maria Bartomeu’s board convinced the striker after paying the termination clause. In addition, he had to add the aforementioned 15 million for a right of first refusal on Saúl and Giménez. But the sacred cows no longer wanted anything to do with Griezmann. “What is he going to play about?”, They complained, “Luis is out of nine and Leo plays on the right wing.” The Frenchman broke the cold with the group, but there was always the list of transferable sports directors.
The problem with Barcelona was that they still had 72 million euros to be amortized for the three seasons of the contract that the French had left at Barça. The priority for the Barça club, in any case, was to reduce the wage bill. Last season, Barça spent 617 million euros between salaries and amortizations. After the departure of Messi (70 net), plus that of Griezmann (20), added to the salary reductions of Piqué, Busquets and Alba, the Barcelona sports management breathes. These last two, announced yesterday, have allowed the club to register Agüero in the League. As the Argentine could not appear again due to an injury for a couple of months, the Barça leadership has waited until the last moment.
The economic situation of the club has caused that the last minute formula to find reinforcements from the sports management has not changed. Not at the beginning of the market when they signed Memphis Depay, Èric García and Agüero at zero cost, nor now at the closing of the window, when they have rushed to hire Luuk De Jong, from Sevilla, who was not in the plans of Julen Lopetegui.
Since Messi’s goodbye, Ronald Koeman warned the Barça technical secretariat that he needed a new striker. It was not enough with Memphis, Braithwaite, Dembélé, Ansu Fati and Agüero, the latter three today in the infirmary. In any case, Griezmann’s departure did not bother him. Barça wanted to satisfy their coach and looked for different profiles. He tested Atlético for João Felix, asked Leipzig if Dani Olmo was for sale and finally settled for Luuk de Jong (31 years old). Barcelona has had no choice but to make zero cost and barter the remedy to strengthen itself in its first season without Messi’s mantle.
The Dutch forward, who scored 19 goals in 94 games for Sevilla, is an old acquaintance of Koeman. During his time on the bench of the Dutch national team, the current Barcelona coach called De Jong for 10 games, was a substitute in five and only started the final of the Nations League in which the Netherlands fell to Portugal.
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