Why €100 million Griezmann remains Barcelona's top transfer target
Antoine Griezmann is the man of the moment. With seven goals in his last two games, the 26-year-old will be the biggest threat to Barcelona's unbeaten record and also their title hopes as Atletico travel to the Catalan capital on Sunday.
A few weeks ago, Diego Simeone's side looked to be out of the race for La Liga, but the Rojiblancos have gained ground on Barca and the gap is only five points now. Thanks, in part, to Griezmann, who hit a hat-trick in the 5-2 win at Sevilla last weekend and followed up with all four goals against Leganes on Wednesday.
"Now, let's go to Barcelona to see if we can do something beautiful," the France forward said after that 4-0 victory. "We have 12 games left and we are going to try to win all of them and we will see how far we can go."
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Griezmann, who now has 103 goals in 193 appearances for Atletico and is clearly benefitting from the return of Diego Costa and the Brazilian's ability to drop deep and drag defenders away to create more spaces, also revealed he hoped to score at Camp Nou on Sunday.
But Barca boss Ernesto Valverde said: "Well, I would rather he saved his goals for another time." Presumably, he means some time in future – as a Barcelona player.
Griezmann considered leaving Atletico last summer, but ultimately stayed due to the club's transfer ban. However, his prohibitive release clause of €200 million drops down to €100m in June and he will be Barca's top transfer target for next season.
Valverde would not be drawn on that in the pre-match press conference on Saturday. "As for his future, I can't tell you," he said. "But he is a player who is in excellent form at the moment."
Despite his recent flurry of goals, there are still many who cannot see exactly how Griezmann would fit in at Barca. But the Blaugrana are determined to make him their player in the summer and have been told by the Frenchman's advisers that he is keen on a move to Camp Nou.
Financially, at least, a move makes sense. Not so long ago, €100m was what the world's most expensive players cost. But not now. After Neymar's €222m transfer to Paris Saint-Germain, even the 20-year-old Ousmane Dembele went for in excess of €100m last summer. And, in January, Barca paid €120m, plus a possible €40m in variables, for Philippe Coutinho.
In the meantime, a possible price of around €200m is being quoted for Tottenham's Harry Kane. Forward players who can guarantee goals are always more expensive and a 27-year-old Griezmann - it is his birthday later this month - for €100m would be smart business for Barca.
How he would fit in is up to Valverde, but he could play either alongside Luis Suarez, with Lionel Messi dropping deeper, or as a winger with the Uruguayan further forward. It would give the Blaugrana an embarrassment of riches in attack.
And, with Messi 31 this year and Suarez already that age, the thinking is that a move for Griezmann, following the arrivals of Dembele and Coutinho, would continue the transition to a younger attack to complement and ultimately replace some of the ageing players at Camp Nou.
Before attempting to buy him, however, Barca will first have to try and stop him.