The flair of a French winger combined with the technical skills of the Spanish, Antoine Griezmann has set La Liga alight in the past couple of years, keeping fans of the game on the edge of their seats. At the tender age of 23, Griezmann has signed with Atletico Madrid, ending his nine-year spell at Real Sociedad – but is he worth the reported €30m release clause that Atletico had to pay?
Antoine Griezmann was rejected by several top clubs in France due to his small stature, e.g. Montpellier and Lyon, and ultimately chose to learn his trade abroad, signing with Real Sociedad at the age of 14. While some would shy away from such an opportunity at that age, Griezmann could not have made a better choice. With ample playing time in a lower league coupled with the technique-focused training and education the Spanish are so well-known for, the boy grew and moved through the ranks much like the club he represented. He is a young player with a huge amount of experience; 179 appearances and 49 goals at the age of 23, while remaining reasonably injury-free, is a statistic that would please/excite any coach.
He can be described as a stereotypical modern winger – or inside forward, if you must. Good with both feet and extremely versatile, Griezmann can play in any of the more advanced roles, on either wing, behind the striker or even as a lone forward, although he does perform at his best on the left. He is a direct, creative and lively player, one who is always willing to make the run in-behind defenders, or at least keep them busy. He is brilliant on the ball, with it sometimes seemingly stuck to his feet. One-twos, lay-offs to teammates around the box, taking on and beating defenders on the outside or when cutting inside – these are all characteristics of the player’s game. While he may also be an able passer, all of the above mentioned only form parts of his best attribute. Antoine Griezmann, for all his talent (and he has an abundance), is a dangerous player around the box. He can do it all – create chances, shoot or just pull defenders out of position due to his presence or his movement. He has the potential to be the epitome of an attacking player.
But no player, including Messi, is without his flaws. While his return for the past season may look extremely good (16 goals and three assists), it’s the finer stats that need to be taken to the next level. A 77% passing accuracy, an average of 1.5 tackles and one key pass per game are all decent figures, yes, but are they worth €30m? He also drifts in and out of the bigger games, as also mentioned by Arsenal scout Gilles Grimandi: “He clearly has something. There is no question about that. But in the Champions League during very high level matches, he suffered.” When viewed in respect to today’s inflated transfer market, though, Griezmann could be seen as a steal at €30m.
There is no doubt Antoine is a huge talent, and that he will entertain us for years to come. He joins fellow new signing Mario Mandžukić at Atletico Madrid, and fans of the beautiful game will wait in anticipation how they link-up with Arda Turan for the Spanish Champions; Diego Simeone has done some good business in respect to Barcelona (Rakitic) and Real Madrid (James Rodriguez) in my opinion. Throughout history, several players have drifted around the fringes of greatness, not in the least due to their obvious talent. Others moved on and basked in the light. Antoine Griezmann has yet to show us where he fits.