Atletico Madrid - Real Madrid: The curious case of Antoine Griezmann

Atletico Madrid - Real Madrid: The curious case of Antoine Griezmann
Atletico Madrid - Real Madrid: The curious case of Antoine Griezmann
Atletico Madrid - Real Madrid: The curious case of Antoine Griezmann
The Madrid derby is this Sunday, September 18th, and with both teams off to good starts in the league, it promises to be a blistering encounter. Atletico fans will probably be pinning their hopes on club legend Antoine Griezmann (31) popping up with a late winner against their more fancied cross-town rivals. At least, based on what we've seen this season, it seems likely that he won’t be starting and scoring early in the match.

In LaLiga this season Griezmann has been substituted on for Atletico in the 62nd, 62nd, 64th, 63rd and 63rd minutes of their opening five league fixtures. In the Champions League, he has been substituted on in the 61st and 62nd minutes.

A curious record indeed.

After re-signing on loan from Barcelona in 2021, a clause in Griezmann’s contract stipulated that Atletico would have to sign him permanently and pay the Catalan club a fee if he met certain performance-related goals.

The clause states that should Griezmann play 50% of the minutes he is available for, then Atletico will be forced to spend €40million to purchase him on a permanent basis. 

However, there seems to be some confusion about which games exactly count towards that clause being triggered.

Reports suggest that Barca believe the fact that Griezmann played over 45 minutes in 30 of the 37 games he was available for last season means Atletico are now obliged to sign him.

Atletico, meanwhile, claim Griezmann must play over 45 minutes in 50% of the games he is available for over two seasons (this season and last) for the clause to take effect. Hence why Diego Simeone (52) has been unwilling to use him for more than half an hour in each game this season.

Financially stricken Barca, obviously, want the fee and are not keen on taking Griezmann back as his salary of over €20million would take up a large chunk of their LaLiga spending limit.

Atletico, meanwhile, might be hesitant to spend such money on a player turning 32 despite the positive impact he’s had this season and last and the fact that he cemented legendary status at the club by playing his 300th game for them in Tuesday's loss to Bayer Leverkusen in the Champions League.

Threats of lawsuits have been circulating the media and clearly some tensions exist. Lips on both sides of the dispute have remained quite tight on the matter, however.

When asked about the situation at a news conference last Friday, Barca manager Xavi (42) said, "It's not to do with me, it's an issue between the two clubs. It's not something I have been involved in. The two clubs have to speak. But there is no debate here, we think he is an Atletico Madrid player."

Griezmann, meanwhile, remarked in a classically coy footballer's manner. "It is what it is," he said to reporters after scoring the winner in Atletico's Champions League game against Porto last week.

"It's not in my hands. I want to more, but I will give everything in the minutes I am given. I am happy to be here, the only thing I want is to give everything for this club, for Cholo [coach Diego Simeone] and the fans."

Simeone would not confirm whether the clause exists or not, but when asked about the situation last week, he simply said, "I'm a club man and I always will be."

After the win over Porto, the coach heaped praise on Griezmann and defended not starting him in any matches this season, claiming he is more effective as a substitute.

"All we can see is the reality, and that's that when he plays for 30 minutes he plays very well. How he does over 60 minutes we don't know, and I can only speak about the reality," said the ever stoic Simeone, who is in his seventh season coaching Griezmann, having first signed him from Real Sociedad back in 2014.

"We have spent many years together, we are fond of each other but his numbers speak for themselves. He was inconsistent last season but we hope he is strong and that the way we are using him can serve us well, we can all see his quality and experience in the minutes he gets."

Allegedly, LaLiga’s interpretation of the Griezmann loan has backed Atletico's, suggesting the 50% clause is applicable all throughout the attacker’s two-year loan spell at the club, rather than just the first season.

Despite this, Atletico are not out of jail just yet and they may still have to pay €40million if a new agreement isn't reached and if, for example, Griezmann picks up a long-term injury.

Due to the number of matches he played last season, missing a large chunk of this season would mean the number of games he was available for reduces. This would thus increase the proportion of matches he has played.

Even a four-month spell on the sidelines, for instance, could only require the diminutive Frenchman to play another seven more matches to meet the 50% criteria across two seasons, thus forcing Atletico to pay the fee at the end of the season.

Reports had emerged in L’Equipe this week that the two clubs had already met and were close to re-negotiating the deal in a way which would reduce the fee owed to around €25million.

However, ahead of their Champions League clash with Bayer Leverkusen on Tuesday, Atletico CEO Enrique Cerezo was asked about the topic and denied any knowledge of a meeting.

“We have not met with Barcelona nor do we have any news that we are going to meet," Cerezo said. "The issue of Griezmann is very clear, you already know or you can imagine it. So until it is all resolved, if there is anything to resolve, we are on the same level.”

It should be noted that Cerezo would be unlikely to confirm negotiations were ongoing if they were indeed underway. However, it seems clear for the reasons mentioned that finding a solution swiftly would suit both parties.

Griezmann has scored three goals off the bench already this season, two in the league and the dramatic 101st-minute winner against Porto in the Champions League last week.

It's a fantastic return given the circumstances he finds himself in and we can only imagine that Simeone would love to use him more freely.

Should the contract situation be resolved before Sunday’s match we might just see him playing a more substantial role in the Madrid derby. If not, expect him to come on with half an hour to go.