Atletico's Griezmann snubs Barca

Antoine Griezmann celebrating a goal during a training session with France ahead of their World Cup opener against Australia. Atletico Madrid supporters may look forward to more of the same, after the French forward turned down a move to Barcelona.
Antoine Griezmann celebrating a goal during a training session with France ahead of their World Cup opener against Australia. Atletico Madrid supporters may look forward to more of the same, after the French forward turned down a move to Barcelona.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

MADRID • France forward Antoine Griezmann has rejected a move to LaLiga champions Barcelona to stay at Atletico Madrid, he said on Thursday in a documentary broadcast on Spanish television.

Griezmann, who scored two goals in Atletico's 3-0 win over Marseille in the Europa League final last month, made the announcement at the end of the programme, called The Decision, made by Spanish network Movistar Plus.

The 27-year-old, voted the world's third-best player of 2016, had been the subject of intense transfer speculation since signing an extension with Atletico in May last year. He was wooed by Barcelona, who were set to meet his buy-out clause - which was set to go down to €100 million (S$156.8 million) from €200 million on July 1. In the end, he opted to prolong his four-year stay with Atletico.

Griezmann detailed his struggles with making the life-changing decision in the unprecedented documentary, showing phone conversations he had with his sister and agent, and his deliberations while visiting his horses. Towards the end, he declared his intention.

"They are doing everything possible to make sure the team keep growing. It's incredible. I can't take it anymore, I need to tell the people that I want to stay," he said.

His loyalty to Atletico has been rewarded with an increase in his annual salary to €20 million, according to reports in the Spanish media.

Spanish media also reported that Barcelona are unhappy with their defender Gerard Pique over his involvement in the video, which had the same title as an ESPN live show eight years ago, when National Basketball Association star LeBron James revealed he was leaving Cleveland for Miami. Pique's production company Kosmos Studios helped produce the documentary.

Pique tweeted: "This was another way to look at the life of a footballer and their doubts when it comes to taking the most important decision of their career... There will be people who criticise (Griezmann)... but the most important takeaway from The Decision is that sometimes not everything that is sold is true."

But fans took to social media to slam the show as an attention-seeking stunt. Former England striker and pundit Gary Lineker tweeted: "Griezmann announces that there is nothing to announce."

The confirmation, however, could be good news to fans in Singapore. Atletico will be in the Republic for the July 26-30 International Champions Cup.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 16, 2018, with the headline 'Atletico's Griezmann snubs Barca'. Print Edition | Subscribe