Europa final likely Griezmann's Atletico adieu

Antoine Griezmann alighting the team bus after arriving in Lyon, where the Europa League final will be played. Barcelona are said to be ready to meet his €100 million buy-out clause.
Antoine Griezmann alighting the team bus after arriving in Lyon, where the Europa League final will be played. Barcelona are said to be ready to meet his €100 million buy-out clause.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

MADRID • Antoine Griezmann's uncertain future has threatened to overshadow Atletico Madrid's preparations for the Europa League final and all eyes will be on the forward when his side take on Marseille today.

While Atletico are determined to justify their status as favourites, Griezmann's future has dominated the build-up and he is widely expected to move to Spanish LaLiga champions Barcelona at the end of this campaign.

Barca striker Luis Suarez stirred the pot last week by speaking about Griezmann as though a deal was already completed, which prompted an angry response from Atletico chief Miguel Angel Gil Marin.

The France international has been Atletico's top scorer in every season since joining from Real Sociedad in 2014, but a constant stream of transfer stories linking him with clubs from Manchester United to rivals Real Madrid has led to him being booed by his own supporters this season.

And the recent speculation over Barca's willingness to meet his €100 million (S$159 million) buy-out clause has been a source of distraction. The clause kicks in on July 1 and for a 27-year-old in the prime of his career, the figure is unlikely to put off his many suitors.

His Atletico team-mates have also been peppered with questions about his future in the lead-up.

"We cannot control things like this, all we can do is help him to feel good with us," said Atletico captain Gabi. "He is a very important player for us and he could play in any team in the world. The only thing we can hope for is that he has a great final and wins us the trophy."

Griezmann has managed to win only one trophy with Atletico - the 2014 Spanish Super Cup - and he could hardly have wished for a better finale if this is to be his last action in an Atletico shirt.

Atletico, who will participate in the International Champions Cup in Singapore and play Paris Saint-Germain on July 30 at the National Stadium, are looking to win the Europa League for the third time in nine seasons. Team-mate Saul Niguez believes that only one thing will be on Griezmann's mind.

"He'll be extra motivated, because he's anxious to win a trophy and to be important," said the Spain midfielder.

Griezmann's fellow striker Diego Costa believes that Griezmann can write his name into the club folklore by firing Atletico to Cup glory.

"All the forwards have won something with this club over the past few seasons and he wants to leave his mark here too," he said.

AGENCE-FRANCE PRESSE, REUTERS

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 16, 2018, with the headline 'Europa final likely Griezmann's Atletico adieu'. Print Edition | Subscribe