BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Antoine Griezmann is making the most of his minutes as a surprising super-sub for Atlético Madrid.
The 31-year-old striker, who won the World Cup title with France in 2018, became a second-half substitute for coach Diego Simeone after being a starter for most of his career. And it seems to be due to a contract dispute between Atlético and Barcelona.
Whatever the reason, Griezmann responded by scoring three goals in five substitute appearances, including a stoppage-time winner in the 2-1 win over Porto. Wednesday in the Champions League.
But with his best player performing so well, why doesn’t Simeone set him up from the start like he had for most of their long time together?
Asked about Griezmann’s odd role, Simeone replied, rather cryptically, last week that the coach is ‘a club man and always will be’.
This response seemed to be the Argentine’s way of confirming local media reports that the club’s management had asked him to cut Griezmann’s minutes as part of a contract showdown to save some much-needed cash. . Atlético are reportedly trying to avoid having to pay Barcelona 40 million euros ($40 million) to make his transfer permanent.
Griezmann, who became a star at Atlético from 2014-19 before moving to Barcelona for a frustrating two seasons, returned to the Spanish capital at the start of last season on loan. In this agreement, it was stipulated that Atlético would have to pay Barcelona 40 million euros (40 million dollars) if he played more than 45 minutes on average. Atlético are reportedly trying to get Barcelona to lower this transfer cost, although Atlético did not immediately respond to The Associated Press when asked about any talks.
Barcelona argue that Atletico are already forced to pay the transfer fee after Griezmann played well over half of the available minutes last season. The Catalan club told The Associated Press on Thursday that they are ready to take legal action to get Atlético to pay regardless of how many minutes Griezmann is currently playing.
So, after being regularly used as a starter last season, Griezmann has come on just after the 60-minute mark in all five of Atlético’s games this campaign.
In interviews with several Spanish sports media on Wednesday, club president Enrique Cerezo repeatedly denied giving orders to Simeone.
“Antoine Griezmann is an Atlético Madrid player and we have coaches who play him when they think it’s appropriate, there’s nothing more,” Cerezo told Movistar Plus TV. “He is available for the time our coach wants. For the beginning, the middle or the end.
The Cerezo club had a discreet transfer window. His only major contract was for defender Nahuel Molina. Otherwise, midfielder Axel Witsel signed as a free agent, defender Sergio Reguilón arrived on loan, while Álvaro Morata and Saúl Ñiguez returned from loan deals.
Griezmann, who is expected to play an important role for France at this year’s World Cup in Qatar, delivered from the bench. Besides his last-minute header against Porto, he also scored in a 3-0 win over Getafe and provided the winner for a 1-0 triumph over Valencia.
“The situation is what it is. It’s not in my hands,” Griezmann said after the win over Porto. “Of course I want more (minutes), but I will give my all in the minutes I have. I feel like a man of this club. I’m happy here and I just want to play here and give my all to this club, both for ‘Cholo’ (Simeone) and our fans.
Griezmann’s next chance to help his team will be on Saturday when Atlético host a Celta Vigo side led by Iago Aspas and his five goals.
Real Madrid will most likely be without Karim Benzema for their home game against Mallorca on Sunday.
Benzema suffered a tendon and muscle injury in his right leg in Tuesday’s 3-0 win over Celtic. The club haven’t specified how long he is expected to be out.
His absence could give another chance to Eden Hazard, who scored and provided two assists in Glasgow. The little-used Belgian striker is in desperate need of playing time to get fit for the World Cup.
Robert Lewandowski will be looking to maintain his superb goalscoring streak when Barcelona visit Cadiz on Saturday.
The Polish striker is fresh off a hat trick in Barcelona’s 5-1 loss of Viktoria Plzen in the Champions League. Prior to that, he had scored five goals in three Spanish league wins.
Barcelona are in second place in the league, three points behind Madrid. Cadiz are in last place after losing all four games and still haven’t scored a goal.
LOPETEGUI UNDER FIRE
Julen Lopetegui is under intense pressure to guide his winless Sevilla to victory at Espanyol on Saturday.
Some Sevilla fans have called for the club’s president, Pepe Castro, to be ousted during their side’s 4-0 loss to Manchester City. tuesday. They are unhappy with the club for weakening the squad by selling centre-backs Jules Koundé and Diego Carlos, who were among the best in the league, without replacing them.
Sevilla have drawn and lost three in the Spanish league.
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