ONE player that has aroused my curiosity of late is French footballer Antoine Griezmann of FC Barcelona.
The global community first took notice of him when he led France to its 2018 World Cup triumph, in which he was named man of the match in Les Bleus 4-2 win over Croatia in the final.
Soon enough, Barca swooped down on the Atletico Madrid midfielder, giving him the number 17 jersey as well as responsibilities on the left wing, a spot that belonged to Neymar Jr. before the Brazilian left for Paris Saint-Germain.
The versatile French footballer’s arrival would soon form Barca’s “MSG” trio up front: Messi, Suarez and Griezmann.
Unfortunately, the new arrival struggled in the first half of the 2019-2020 season.
A dependable scoring machine, Griezmann had amassed 185 goals in a span of 10 years with La Liga clubs Real Sociedad and Atletico Madrid. For country, he’s racked up 30 goals over the last six years.
But scoring just five goals in five months in the La Liga didn’t seem to justify his $133-million price tag. Griezmann seemed out of flavor among the MSG trio.
By November, talks circulated that the Frenchman had frayed relations with Messi who allegedly didn’t want him in the club. The Argentinian dismissed the rumors.
As if on cue, Griezmann promptly went to work to prove his worth.
Beginning with a solid Champions League performance late in November against Borussia Dortmund, Barca’s MSG trio all scored in a 3-1 win that assured the Catalan side of a slot in the knockout stage.
Griezmann then went on to score in three out of the four La Liga matches Barca played in December, bringing his goal tally to eight in the domestic league.
Griezmann is on a roll.
Does this mean that Ernesto Valverde’s Barca has finally found the right MSG recipe up front? If so, that spells trouble for the Blaugrana’s rivals.
Barcelona, though, thinks that having Griezmann isn’t enough, which is why the club wants Neymar back for $200 million.
Griezmann is reportedly giving the move a thumbs up, even though Neymar’s return could mean much fewer minutes for the Frenchman on the pitch.
And yet Griezmann is one who doesn’t back down from any challenge.
In the documentary “Antoine Griezmann: The Making of a Legend” shown on Netflix, the young forward was banned for 13 months from the national youth team selection after he was caught partying with four other teammates in 2012.
His scout asked him: “Do you want to redeem the situation? That will only happen on the pitch.”
True enough, Griezmann redeemed himself and went on to do great things on the pitch, like winning the World Cup with France six years later.
With Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi nearing the twilight of their football careers, Griezmann is just getting started with Barcelona, with or without Neymar.