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Old 02-03-2018, 12:51 PM   #21
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Default Re: Antoine Griezmann

Manchester United missed out on Antoine Griezmann last summer but Frenchman's stunning form has attracted interest from Barcelona and now he looks set for Nou Camp switch

* Manchester United unluckily missed out on Antoine Griezmann last summer
* Atletico Madrid's ban on registering new players stopped any deal in its tracks
* Griezmann scored four goals on Wednesday – making it seven in two games
* His dazzling form has attracted interest from Barcelona and he looks set to move

The longer the season goes on the more it becomes clear just how unlucky Manchester United were last summer when their attempts at signing Antoine Griezmann were, in effect, scuppered by FIFA.

With four goals on Wednesday night against Leganes – making it seven in two games – he delivered the sort of performance that Atletico Madrid supporters will talk about for years to come.

The range of finishing – left-foot, right-foot, free-kick and header – were a reminder of what a complete forward he is. How good would he have been at Old Trafford, cheering his pal Paul Pogba up and doing justice to the number 7 shirt that he had made little secret of wanting to wear.

When French television channel TMC’s presenter Yann Barthés asked him last summer: ‘Is there a chance you will play at United next season?’ and he replied: ‘It’s possible, yes,’ giving a six out of ten rating to the rumour. It was as unsubtle a ‘come-and-get-me’ plea as was possible.

All roads seemed to lead to Manchester. When he had played at Old Trafford for Real Sociedad back in 2013 he was so in awe of the place he had his video camera out before the game filming the stadium. His brother Theo follows United and had taken Antoine to watch them in 2012. His former advisor Sebastien Bellencontre said in an interview that the next step for Griezmann was to wear the famous red number 7.

The only thing that could stop the move was the very thing that happened next. The Court of Arbitration upheld a FIFA ban on Atletico registering new players because they had broken rules over signing under-age players. The Spanish club could not sign anyone and for the Griezmann deal was stopped in its tracks.

Atletico had to ensure that if they could not bring anyone in, then at least no one left. Especially not their best player. Griezmann’s representative Iñaki Ibañez sat down with Atletico’s chief executive Miguel Angel Gil and he was given a sizeable salary increase bumped up to around €14m net a season with his €100m buy-out doubled.

The new deal worked out at around €270,000 a week net and although United, could still comfortably compete with that they could not pay the €200m buy-out clause as well. What is more the player was no longer willing to leave.

Manchester United were unlucky to miss out on signing Antoine Griezmann last summer. Atletico Madrid's ban on registering new players stopped any Old Trafford deal in its tracks

Griezmann had agreed to a new deal knowing that it would keep him in Madrid. He felt that he could not walk out on Atletico at a time when they could not sign a replacement.

The clause increase was temporary and it would drop back down to €100m this summer. But nothing stands still in football; United now have Alexis Sanchez wearing their number seven shirt, and it is Barcelona who appear to be saving the same number for the Frenchman when this season ends.

For a while it seemed perhaps United had missed out on what would have been an expensive mistake. Griezmann’s early season form was poor.

His coach Diego Simeone even hinted that he could leave the club at the end of this season with everyone’s blessing. His own supporters whistled him and he was regularly the player taken off by Simeone. The coach did little to defend his player in press conferences.

‘In my house I was taught that while someone is part of the family you stand up for them,’ he said. The implication was: ‘back him while he’s with us; he’ll be gone soon enough’.

But gradually Griezmann has rediscovered his form. Diego Costa’s presence alongside him has taken the weight from his shoulders. Now it’s the Bearded Wonder barging his way around the penalty area bullying defenders and, the Boy Wonder who can make the most of the ensuing chaos.

They are a dream partnership and Simeone would love to keep them together. Barcelona have other ideas.

Griezmann's agent Ibañez also represents Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde, he has French team-mates at the Camp Nou in Ousmane Dembele and Samuel Umtiti and his wife Eirka Choperena is Spanish and in favour of staying in Spain.

Atletico president Enrique Cerezo would still prefer him in the Premier League instead of at one of Atletico's rivals. But if Barcelona pay the buy-out clause this summer then he will be helpless to stop the player leaving.

In the mean time 35,000 supporters who braved the near zero temperatures for a 9.30pm kick-off last night (it was Atletico’s lowest league crowd of the season) can look forward to telling friends for years to come: ‘I was there’.

If he plays like this at the Camp Nou on Sunday in the game that will decide if there is to be a title race worthy of the name or not, then they will love him even more, Barcelona will want him even more, and United will be reminded once more, what they so nearly signed last summer.

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