Griezmann to Barcelona: No space for Coutinho?
Barcelona have completed the signing of Antoine Griezmann, but it is a deal that could impact on several of his new team-mates.
After what feels like years of flirting and transfer speculation, Antoine Griezmann is finally a Barcelona player and it is a move that could ruffle a few feathers at Camp Nou.
Griezmann’s arrival comes 13 months after the France star committed his future to Atletico in a documentary, rebuffing Barca and signing a new five-year contract at the time.
But, with Atletico’s season fading away in May, Griezmann and the Madrid club published a video to Twitter in which the forward confirmed his desire to leave.
Barca’s failure in the Champions League and Copa del Rey was proof of a need for Ernesto Valverde’s squad to be improved and there can be little doubt his arrival achieves that.
However, there are reasons for trepidation for several of Griezmann’s new team-mates, as we have examined…
Despite a promising start, it is fair to say Coutinho’s time at Camp Nou has not gone to plan since joining from Liverpool for a reported €160m in January 2018. The Brazil international has failed to nail down a regular spot in midfield or attack, starting only 22 league games in 2018-19, often filling in either role with minimal success to make him a frequent target for jeers. If Barca see Coutinho as more of a forward, there may not be space for him with Griezmann’s arrival, with first-team opportunities likely to be even trickier to come by. Linked with a move, the former Liverpool star would not be short of suitors, particularly in England.
Like Coutinho, Dembele was brought in as part of the post-Neymar splurge. While the winger is undoubtedly talented and has shown flashes of his potential, his Barca career has been interrupted by injuries and reports of immaturity. Few can argue Griezmann is not a model professional, even if his behaviour over the past year or so has angered Atleti and his new employers. Perhaps, as an international team-mate and fellow World Cup-winner, Griezmann might just be the influence Dembele, whose move could eventually be worth €145m, needs to find his best.
In the opening months of last season Suarez showed signs of decline, as he endured a couple of uncharacteristic droughts. Thankfully for Barca he recovered and has managed to score 21 goals in LaLiga, though his form in the Champions League remains a concern, the Uruguayan netting just five times in his past 29 games in the competition.
While there is no suggestion Griezmann is set to replace Suarez, the fact the Frenchman could fill in for him and allow him more rest can only be a good thing, particularly with the former Ajax star now 32 years old. However, for the two to co-exist, they may need to bury the hatchet, with Suarez unimpressed by Griezmann’s efforts to show respect to Uruguay – a country he professes to love – after his goal against them for France at the World Cup.
The main man, the superstar and the one who makes everything tick. None of that will change if Griezmann arrives. Messi was inspirational again last season, scoring 36 times in 34 LaLiga games. He was used a little more sparingly and Griezmann’s potential arrival could allow him more rest, but the Argentine’s status as top dog will certainly remain either way. Nevertheless, another superstar forward might just alleviate some of the goal-scoring burden.
A transfer that promised much has yielded little. Brazilian winger Malcom is almost certain to leave Barca over the next month or so, and his departure will surely be hastened now a deal for Griezmann has been struck. A gifted player that Barca pipped Roma to at the last minute in July 2018, it has been pretty clear from the outset that he does not have Valverde’s faith. Links with Sevilla soon vanished after Monchi – the scorned sporting director of the Giallorossi last year – returned to the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan, though he will likely have plenty of options should the Catalan decide to offload him.