Griezmann losing the fight to prove he’s not just another Barcelona transfer flop
The France international is no longer assured of a place in the starting line-up as he prepares to face former club Atletico Madrid at Camp Nou
As broadcasters began to show replays of Iago Aspas’ late equaliser for Celta Vigo against Barcelona on Saturday, the eyes of all watching Blaugrana supporters focused on the actions of one man.
Stood on the end of the defensive wall as Aspas lined up his free kick was Antoine Griezmann. Having been left out of the starting line-up, the France international had been thrown on by Quique Setien in a bid to ensure Barca did not drop any more points in their quest to fight off Real Madrid in the Liga title race.
Instead, Griezmann was the man to blame come the full-time whistle in Vigo. The former Atletico Madrid forward turned his back on Aspas’ effort rather than attempting to block it, and with Marc-Andre ter Stegen unsighted, the ball found its way into the bottom corner of his goal.
It is just the latest forgettable moment in Griezmann’s first season at Camp Nou, with his €120 million (£107m/$134m) move from Atletico Madrid very quickly becoming something of a nightmare.
Atletico are Barcelona’s opponents on Tuesday evening and would love nothing more than to remind Griezmann of the good times he left behind by continuing their improved recent form and recording a victory in Catalunya.
Under Diego Simeone, Griezmann developed into one of the most feared attacking players on the planet, playing predominantly as either second striker or a false nine as the Rojiblancos challenged the status quo both in Spain and on the continent.
At Barca, however, Griezmann has largely been deployed on the left-hand side of a front three by both Ernesto Valverde and Setien. Lionel Messi is the man given the freedom to drift between positions, not Griezmann, and the lack of flexibility in his new role is no doubt hurting his performance levels.
With six games left of the Liga season, Griezmann has contributed just eight goals and four assists in 31 appearances. In 2018-19 he finished the campaign with 15 goals and eight assists. The year before that it was 19 goals and nine assists.
“I don’t take into consideration the player’s price tag,” Setien said when asked why Griezmann was not selected from the start against Celta. “Last week we chose one specific team, and today we decided on another one.
“These are decisions I make and they are technical decisions. They’re not made rashly, and they are done with the best of intentions for the team.”
Setien is highly unlikely to be the man making the decisions at Camp Nou next season, but questions remain over whether Griezmann will be there either.
Amid reports that his team-mates were confused as to why he was even brought onto the pitch on Saturday and with Lautaro Martinez in their cross-hairs heading into the summer transfer window, it is difficult to see Griezmann being a long-term fit at Barca.
Ansu Fati is already a legitimate challenger for his place in the line-up, but Barca already know just how difficult it is to sell a player they bought for in excess of €100m after their struggles to move on both Ousmane Dembele and Philippe Coutinho.
Less than a year away from his 30th birthday, time is already running out to recoup the money spent on Griezmann in July 2019.
The opportunity to put one over his former side might be the fillip Griezmann requires to finally kick-start his Barca career, but all signs are that unless a role which suits his strengths can be found, he is likely to go down as yet another failed signing in Catalunya.
For a player who made such a song and dance over his future for two successive summers, this is not how he saw this playing out.