Griezmann calls time on Atletico stay as move to Barcelona looms

MADRID • French striker Antoine Griezmann has told Atletico Madrid he will leave them in the close season, the Spanish club said on Twitter on Tuesday.

The 28-year-old has a contract until 2023 with Atletico, but has a buy-out clause of €120 million (S$183.9 million) and has been the target of several approaches from LaLiga rivals Barcelona.

"Antoine Griezmann has told the club he will not continue as a Rojiblanco (red and white, the club's colours) next season," the club said.

Within a few moments, the 2018 World Cup winner then posted a video explaining himself.

"After speaking with Cholo (club coach Diego Simeone), then with (chief executive) Miguel Angel and the people in the hierarchy I wanted to speak with you, the fans, who have always given me a lot of love," said Griezmann.

"I wanted to tell you I have taken the decision to leave. I have had five wonderful seasons here and you will always be in my heart.

"The truth is, it has been difficult to take this route but it is what I feel I need and I would like to thank all of you for the love you have shown me during these five years."

HOME IS WHERE THE HEART IS

It's difficult to say no to teams like Barca. (But) when you're shown love at home, you don't go elsewhere. They did everything possible to make me feel good, including bringing in important players and building a great team.

ANTOINE GRIEZMANN, in a TV documentary named The Decision last year, explaining why he stayed at Atletico.

TIME TO LEAVE HOME

I have had five wonderful seasons here and you (the fans) will always be in my heart. The truth is, it has been difficult to take this route but it is what I feel I need and I would like to thank all of you for the love you have shown me during these five years.

GRIEZMANN, telling fans why he has decided to leave.

With 133 goals in 252 games at Atletico, he has rarely been unfit or injured. The Frenchman was a Champions League runner-up in 2016, losing to rivals Real Madrid. Last year, he scored two goals to help Atletico beat Marseille in the Europa League final.

He finished third in the voting for the Ballon d'Or in 2016, after France lost to Portugal in the European Championship final and was a huge presence as Les Bleus romped to a memorable World Cup win at Russia 2018 after which he also finished third in the Ballon d'Or votes.

He rejected an offer from Barca last June, documenting his internal struggles about whether to make the move in a documentary called The Decision, produced by Barcelona defender Gerard Pique's Kosmos production company.

The last contract he signed initially raised his release clause to €200 million but that figure will drop to €120 million on July 1.

Griezmann's departure may signal an exodus at Atletico. France defender Lucas Hernandez agreed to join Bayern Munich when they paid his €80 million release clause and long-serving captain Diego Godin's contract is coming to an end.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 16, 2019, with the headline 'Griezmann calls time on Atletico stay as move to Barcelona looms'. Print Edition | Subscribe