The narrative since day one is that Antoine Griezmann wasn’t the solution that FC Barcelona needed. And that could very well be the truth. However, as fans, we need to understand something. There are way more casual football followers than diehard fanatics. More people follow a specific team and their results than people intrigued by the day-to-day operations of their favorite team.
The casual fans take information from TV, newspapers, social media. Basically, places that are agenda-driven, love to use the word “chemistry” and try to control the narrative. That means most of the time, the blame is misdirected and credit the wrong parties. Yes, the fit isn’t perfect, but to blame the current state of the club solely on Antoine Griezmann’s acquisition is a big mistake.
Firstly, I think we can all agree that Antoine Griezmann joined FC Barcelona as an established world-class football player. In my mind, never has been an inch of doubt about that. He has excellent technique, elite vision, shifty, good finishing ability, and a player who can assist in the game’s defensive part. He is the modern forward.
I even think he is more than that.
The red and white part of Madrid was ecstatic. Beautifully produced short movie by FC Barcelona’s vice-captain, Pique explained to Atleti fans that Antoine had one thing in his mind – bring glory to the club and their brand-new stadium. He announced he was staying. A colossal salary boost followed; all seemed to be done and dusted.
FC BARCELONA’S MOVE
Six months later, in February, there is a contractual agreement between Antoine Griezmann and FC Barcelona to move in the summer. The commitment to Atleti was over. Although the deal was agreed in principle in February, the release clause was 200 million. With the pipedreams about Neymar coming back, that was a figure that FC Barcelona did not want to pay. On June 1st, that release clause came down to 120 million. What FC Barcelona did is contacting a player without the agreement of his club, agreed pre-contractually that transfer would be executed, once affordable for FC Barcelona – June 1st.
Let alone the fact that by doing this, you eradicate your business relationship with Atletico, what FC Barcelona did is flat out illegal. With all the reports getting stronger and more substantial about the eventual departure of Antoine Griezmann, after the final home game of Atletico Madrid’s campaign, he publicly stated his time in Atleti is over.
— Atlético de Madrid (@Atleti) May 14, 2019
Once all that came out in the media, FC Barcelona had to move quickly. And they didn’t. Antoine Griezmann refused to attend the first day of pre-season with Atletico, although still on the contract he signed less than a year ago. Replacement in Joao Felix was already signed and given Antoine Griezmann’s number 7. The hatred towards Griezmann from Atleti fans was rising by the second. There was no way back for Antoine. He had to leave.
I bring all this up to illustrate the toxicity in which FC Barcelona operated in this deal. Griezmann’s approach wasn’t an example for young professionals either. Instead of celebration, the transfer turns into many questions, public barks from the clubs, just a whole lot of nonsense.
If you start on the wrong foot, it takes a lot more to make a relationship work out. You need desire, trust, organizational discipline, and plan; you need buy-in from everybody, you need committed people in your organization.
GRIEZMANN AND MESSI
I don’t believe any significant sporting decision is made without discussing it with Lionel Messi. There isn’t such a thing. Think about any area of life. How can somebody make the right decisions for the organization if there isn’t communication between your best performer and your decision-maker?
From my point of view, Messi was led to believe that Barcelona will do all in their power to bring Neymar back, as he was seen as the missing piece by many first-team members, including Messi, while Griezmann was recruited with the idea of him being that piece too. Both transfers were possible in the minds of Barcelona’s directors. However, Griezmann was the first domino to fall, which leads to fewer options to maneuver in the Neymar deal, which was unsuccessful in the end.
To all the people that suggest Messi and Griezmann don’t work together – they do, but both need to want it. And this is where for me, it all falls apart.
Messi knows Griezmann can help the team win, but my gut feeling is that he is exhausted. Leo is exhausted from being the guy pulling that club along for the ride. His priority is to win trophies and play football. His emphasis isn’t to teach Griezmann how to be comfortable on the left-wing. His focus isn’t to ensure Griezmann is going to score goals. He is Lionel Messi. His priority was Barcelona. I want to say it still is but is getting harder and harder for me to believe that Barcelona’s focus is Lionel Messi and winning.
The club is strong enough to compete, but not challenge. The pillars for success are missing, and it’s delusional to expect and demand this team to be a footballing powerhouse today and any time soon. Griezmann is the least of the problems but quickly tells the story of FC Barcelona in the last half a decade.
The club was in such a mess, as we understood later, that financially Barcelona and Bartomeu couldn’t deliver on all their promises. You can’t have Griezmann, Coutinho, Dembele for combined transfer fees paid more than 500 million, and then go and add Neymar to that mix while building a new stadium. It is an absolute fantasy, and the fans bought into it. Barcelona’s approach was to mask a wrong “marquee” transfer decision with an even more expensive transfer. It felt like the directors are throwing money in every direction to please the fanbase from the outside. We can compete with anybody in the financial market. “Flexing” for lack of a better term.
We all demand more from Barcelona and Antoine Griezmann. But should we?
Regular reports that somebody is not happy, financial difficulties, manager changes, aging first-team, and the overall uncertainty around the team are not ingredients for a successful football club. Try absorbing all that information and make sense of the next paragraph.
In the last decade, Barcelona won 6 league titles, 5 Copa del Rey, including 4 in a row and three more lost finals, and they have won the Champions League twice while advancing to the Quarterfinals all ten seasons. It just does not seem real.
My hat is off to all the players, coaches, and everybody involved with Barcelona’s success during the last couple of years. I guess we can all only fantasize about what would’ve been in the club wanted to be successful on the pitch as much as they wanted to be a force in the corporate world.
Do you still feel like ten more goals from Griezmann is the answer to Barcelona’s problems? For me, I would prefer to see him, and the team enjoys being on the pitch. Together. Be part of FC Barcelona.