No space for Coutinho, an end to Suarez rift? - What would Griezmann's signing mean for Barcelona's forwards?
Antoine Griezmann announced his intention to leave Atletico Madrid on Tuesday after five years at the club, surprising few who had seen reports of Barcelona's interest resurface in recent weeks.
It comes less than 12 months after the Frenchman committed his future in Atletico in a documentary, rebuffing Barca and signing a new five-year contract at the time.
But with Atletico's season fading away and Barca going for a domestic double, Griezmann and his club published a video to Twitter in which the forward confirmed he is seeking a move.
Griezmann's contract has a €120million release clause in it, meaning Atletico will expect to be heavily compensated should a transfer go through, and Barca are firm favourites to bring him in following their long-held admiration.
Although Barca could yet add the Copa del Rey to their LaLiga title, their Champions League quarter-final exit was proof of a need for Ernesto Valverde's side to be improved.
Should Barca finally get their man, there will be several stars already at the club who will take particular interest in the arrival…
Despite a promising start, it's 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. This season the Brazilian has failed to nail down a regular spot in midfield or attack, often filling in either role with minimal success and he is a frequent target for jeers. If Barca see Coutinho as more of a forward, there may not be space for him should Griezmann arrive, with first-team opportunities likely to be even trickier to come by. Linked with a move, the former Liverpool star could be heading back to 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. Perhaps, as an international team-mate and fellow World Cup-winner, Griezmann might just be the influence Dembele needs to find his best.
In the opening months of the 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's no suggestion Griezmann is set to replace Suarez, the fact the Frenchman could fill in for him and allow him more rests 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 after his goal against them for France at the World Cup.
3 - @atletienglish's @AntoGriezmann is one of the three players to have scored 15+ goals in LaLiga in each of the last five seasons, alongside Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez. Prince. pic.twitter.com/CGd7wk78dZ— OptaJose (@OptaJose) 24 April 2019
The main man, the superstar and the one who makes everything tick. None of that will change if Griezmann arrives. Messi has been inspirational again this season, scoring 34 times in 33 LaLiga games. He has been 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 appeared to promise much has yielded little. Brazilian winger Malcom is almost certain to leave Barca at the end of the season, his departure something that will surely be hastened if a deal for Griezmann is struck. A gifted player that Barca pipped Roma to at the last minute in July 2018, it's been pretty clear from the outset that he doesn't have Valverde's faith. Sevilla, who look set for a close-season rebuild, are rumoured to be interested, though sporting director Monchi – in charge at Roma when Malcom rejected them – might not be willing to offer him a lifeline.