- 'The Decision': Are both Barcelona and Griezmann regretting €120m transfer?15:30 | 30/11/2019
The forward will face old side Atletico Madrid having scored just five times for the Blaugrana – but was his strike against Dortmund a turning point?
Photo by Getty
Returning to the Wanda Metropolitano was always going to be a testing experience for Antoine Griezmann.
Griezmann had hoped to meet his former side feeling at home on and off the field at Camp Nou, secure in his belief that he had made the right decision to move to Catalunya.
Unfortunately for the 28-year-old, that is simply not the case.
However, the World Cup winner was only on the field because his compatriot Ousmane Dembele had been forced off injured just 26 minutes into the first half.
Griezmann may have been signed for €120 million (£102m/$132m) during the summer but he has not been a guaranteed starter under Ernesto Valverde.
Dembele’s latest setback is, therefore, good news for Griezmann, who is now set to avoid the humiliation of sitting on the bench against his old team this weekend.
Former Barca forward Paco Alcacer was forced to do just that when he returned to face Valencia and the fear has been mounting in recent weeks that Griezmann’s Camp Nou career could prove even more disappointing, given the money involved.
Indeed, Griezmann’s strike against Dortmund was just his fifth Blaugrana goal in 17 appearances and his first in six matches.
Given the way in which he had publicly spurned the club in the summer of 2018 on the now infamous ‘The Decision’ reality show, many Barca fans were unhappy when Josep Bartomeu resurrected the transfer during the summer.
“I think most Barca fans don’t want him and, on top of that, I think the price is over the top,” argued club president Joan Laporta.
On top of the cost, though, there were legitimate concerns over his suitability to playing alongside Luis Suarez and, even more importantly, Lionel Messi.
At Atletico, Griezmann thrived as a second striker, usually in behind Diego Costa. He was given the freedom to roam but, at Barcelona, only Messi has the prerogative.
Consequently, Griezmann must either operate on the left wing, where he has spent the majority of his playing time this season, or as a No.9 when Suarez is unavailable or rested.
Some felt that Griezmann could actually usurp the Uruguayan this season but Suarez’s relationship with Messi, on and off the field, means he remains the first-choice centre-forward.
The South American duo certainly delivered against Dortmund, with the pair combining for the first two goals.
“It’s normal that we look for each other; we’re the two main forwards,” Suarez enthused afterwards.
It has been suggested that the pair are not particularly fond of Griezmann – it’s no secret that both wanted Neymar back at Barca this summer – but the former Liverpool man insisted that once he and Messi had effectively broken Dortmund’s resistance, they tried to tee up Griezmann for a goal.
“As has happened with other team-mates who were struggling to score, when we were winning, we looked for him,” Suarez revealed.
“Antoine did spectacularly well in the end. He had chances and he scored, which is important for his confidence.”
The boost certainly couldn’t have come at a better time and his joy at ending his mini-drought was obvious, with a grinning Griezmann making a point of going straight to Messi to thank his captain for the through-ball.
“Messi’s given him an assist now, you can’t say anything,” Clement Lenglet quipped afterwards.
The centre-half was joking but the goal certainly provided some badly needed evidence that Griezmann can indeed thrive alongside the Argentine.
It’s also worth pointing out that Barca have been here before.
Looking back to the 2014-15 season, it was Suarez who was out of place, unable to find his rhythm with Neymar and Messi until eventually it all clicked perfectly against Atletico, with the ‘trident’, as they became known, all getting on the scoresheet.
Suarez, Messi and Griezmann did likewise against Dortmund and the France international even took to Twitter afterwards to post a picture of himself and his captain celebrating his strike, accompanied by the words “Important night”.
And maybe it was. Maybe it was the turning point for Griezmann. How he would love to prove as much at the Wanda Metropolitano on Sunday.
Source – Goal.com
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