Decisive yet undecided

Above: Atletico Madrid's Antoine Griezmann scoring the second goal past Marseille goalkeeper Steve Mandanda during the 3-0 Europa League final victory on Wednesday. Left: Griezmann and his family celebrate after his double helped Atletico clinch the
Above: Atletico Madrid's Antoine Griezmann scoring the second goal past Marseille goalkeeper Steve Mandanda during the 3-0 Europa League final victory on Wednesday. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Above: Atletico Madrid's Antoine Griezmann scoring the second goal past Marseille goalkeeper Steve Mandanda during the 3-0 Europa League final victory on Wednesday. Left: Griezmann and his family celebrate after his double helped Atletico clinch the
Above: Griezmann and his family celebrate after his double helped Atletico clinch the Europa League trophy for the third time.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Griezmann clinical in Atletico's Europa win but he keeps mum on reported Barca links

LYON (France) • Antoine Griezmann's "decisiveness" was on full display yet again after his brace helped defeat Marseille 3-0 in the Europa League final on Wednesday, and it is the reason why he will be one of the most sought-after transfer targets this summer.

The Atletico Madrid forward, who will spearhead France's World Cup bid after coach Didier Deschamps unveiled his 23-man squad list yesterday, has been heavily linked to Spanish LaLiga champions Barcelona.

After producing an ice-cool finish to put Atletico in front in the 21st minute, before starting and finishing an exquisite move which effectively killed off the French Ligue 1 side early in the second half, Griezmann showed why his €100 million (S$159 million) buy-out clause is unlikely to put off Barca.

The clause kicks in on July 1 and Atletico coach Diego Simeone knows he has a fight on his hands to keep the 27-year-old, who is in the prime of his career and appears to have had his head turned by Barca's overtures.

"Griezmann today confirmed what he has been doing year by year. He was decisive in the most important moment in the game," Simeone told a news conference.

"I hope that he is happy to play for us. He's played three finals with us and won two (including the 2014 Spanish Super Cup). Now we are in the Uefa Super Cup, so he could play four finals. So on a sporting level, we aren't so far from the clubs that have more power than us."

Captain Gabi's late strike rubber-stamped Atletico's third Europa League triumph since 2010 and gave Griezmann, who has been the LaLiga club's leading scorer in every season since joining in 2014, his first major trophy with the team.

  • 13  

    Antoine Griezmann goals (eight) and assists (five) in Europe this season.

  • 45%  

    Percentage of Atletico's 93 goals that have directly involved Griezmann (29 goals, 13 assists) this season.

  • 112 

    Griezmann's goals in 208 games for Atletico Madrid since 2014-15.

While Simeone appears resigned that Griezmann, whose double took him to 29 goals in all competitions this season, will likely end his four-year stay at the Wanda Metropolitano to move to the Nou Camp, the Argentinian had only praise for his star man.

"It's a decision that he will have to come to. Whatever he decides I'll be happy because he has given us his life," Simeone added.

"If he stays, I'll be delighted and, if he leaves, I'll be grateful for everything he's done for us. He's given us a lot, he gave us a leap in quality as a team. If he stays, we'll keep growing because we are destined to keep growing."

Griezmann, who was the Man of the Match, opted to keep mum on whether he would stay or leave Atletico at the end of the term.

Atletico will participate in the International Champions Cup in Singapore in the close season and play Arsenal on July 26 at the National Stadium.

"Now is not the moment to talk about my future, I just want to enjoy myself after my performance, after winning a trophy and I want to celebrate with the fans," Griezmann told reporters.

"Simeone has taught me a lot, he made me become a better player and I hope I can keep improving every year, in every game. I owe a lot to Simeone and my team-mates."

He missed a penalty in the 2016 Champions League final against Real Madrid, when his side lost 3-5 in a shoot-out and that made him more determined to perform against Marseille.

"It was a dream of mine to win a trophy with Atleti, with Simeone and with my team-mates," Griezmann added.

"It wasn't meant to be in the Champions League, but I said to myself that tonight was going to be night and so it was."

And though the victory came against Marseille, the club he supported as a youngster, there was no bittersweet ending to his evening.

"It's not hard because I am selfish. I had lost finals, I left home at 14 to win titles and today, I had the chance to win a trophy," Griezmann said.

To cap off a glorious night for Atletico supporters, 34-year-old forward Fernando Torres also ended his long wait for a first trophy with his hometown club.

Torres, who will be leaving Atletico in the summer and will play his last league game for his boyhood team against Eibar on Sunday, said it was "a dream I've always had since I was a child".

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 18, 2018, with the headline ' Decisive yet undecided'. Print Edition | Subscribe