Antoine Griezmann faces a lot of criticism for a guy who was the man of the match in the 2018 World Cup final.
But that is the nature of elite football and elite footballers. Praised and hero-worshipped one moment, dragged the next, and so the cycle repeats itself as the expectations of mere human beings continue to reach superhuman levels.
However, one place where the love for Griezmann has been in endless supply is at the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium, home to LaLiga champions Atlético Madrid and a place where he has now returned.
⏪ Griezmann rewind
The first time the global audience took note of Griezmann's considerable abilities, and especially his left foot, was at the 2009 Toulon Tournament and then at the UEFA U19 European Championships of 2010, where France beat Spain in the final. Griezmann's first professional break at club level came at Real Sociedad.
He scored 52 goals in 202 appearances across four years for La Real but was let go when an offer of €54m came in from Atléti in 2014, one that a club of Sociedad's relatively humble stature simply couldn't refuse. Griezmann is adored on the red half of Madrid. His first stint with Atleti saw him plunder 133 goals & 50 assists in 257 appearances. He collected the Spanish Super Cup in 2015, the Europa League in 2018 and the UEFA Super Cup in 2019.
In retrospect, it's easy to say that the move to Barça was a bad idea at the end of the 2018-19 season, but hindsight is always 20/20. Make no mistake, there were some brilliant moments too. It's just as well that Griezmann is a basketball fan because long portions of a 4-1 win at Villarreal's Estadio de la Cerámica in July 2020 could have easily been mistaken for action from the NBA.
Griezmann's gorgeous chipped effort after a backheeled assist from Messi grazed the crossbar and in truth, it was a goal that the Argentinian icon would have been honoured to score. A player of Griezmann's pedigree will always make his quality known, it's just a shame that this was the exception rather than the rule with Barça.
At 30, Griezmann still has plenty to offer and with Luis Suárez, João Félix, Ángel Correa and new signing Rodrigo De Paul at the club, manager Diego Simeone has a wealth of options at his disposal.
🏆 Disappointment turns to glory
Despite the heartache of a European Championships final defeat in 2016, Griezmann finished third in the voting for the Ballon d'Or with only Leo Messi and winner Cristiano Ronaldo getting more acclaim. How different it could have been had his side got the better of Portugal in Saint-Denis five years ago.
Fast-forward to 2018 and the Frenchman was making up for the Euros disappointment in the biggest way possible, lifting the Europa League with Atléti and then football's ultimate prize with France in Russia. The Euro 2016 disappointment suffered on home soil would have been a bitter pill to swallow, but one that surely makes their triumph in Russia that much sweeter.
🇫🇷 Griezmann for France
41 goals in 98 appearances for Les Bleus is a superb record for any player, let alone one who tends to drop into deeper areas to knit the play together. That's the role he played at the World Cup and one that he carried out to perfection.
Griezmann was officially voted as the man of the match when France won its first world title in 20 years. To put Griezmann's tally of 41 national team strikes into perspective, only Olivier Giroud and Thierry Henry have scored more.
What's most impressive about Griezmann is the intelligence and passing precision that he lends to almost any attacking system, as well as his eagerness to contribute defensively without the ball. All of these features are embellished by a graceful flair and panache that makes him one of the most aesthetically pleasing players on the planet. Here's a reminder of some of Griezy's best moments in a red & white jersey:
After two generally underwhelming years at Barcelona, Antoine Griezmann will be determined to get back on the winning trail. The Atlético Madrid faithful will be delighted to be back in the stands for a number of reasons, and the return of Griezmann is right up there as one of the most compelling.
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