Furious Atletico claim Barcelona and Griezmann negotiated Camp Nou move in February
Atletico Madrid have launched a stinging attack on Barcelona and their own player Antoine Griezmann by claiming they secretly negotiated a transfer in February.
French striker Griezmann has long been linked with a move to Camp Nou, with Catalonia appearing his most likely destination when he announced in May plans to leave Atletico in the close-season.
He is contracted to Atletico until 2023, however, and any discussions about a move would need to be conducted with his current club's agreement.
Atletico said they felt the "strongest disapproval" of those they allege to have been involved, claiming talks between Barca and Griezmann took place at a delicate stage of the season and in violation of transfer rules.
Griezmann, 28, is available for a €120million – the value of his release clause – during this transfer window and that could be activated by Barcelona.
However, in another remarkable claim made on Friday, Atletico say the Catalan giants have asked to defer payment, a proposal Los Colchoneros have dismissed.
News of a meeting between club officials came to light earlier on Friday, when Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu discussed a range of issues in a news conference.
That appeared to rankle with Atletico, who issued a statement that read: "On May 14, Antoine Griezmann informed [chief executive] Miguel Angel Gil, [head coach] Diego Simeone and [sporting director] Andrea Berta of his decision to leave our club at the end of the season.
"In the days that followed that meeting, Atletico Madrid learned that Barcelona and the player had reached an agreement in March, specifically in the days following the return match of our Champions League tie against Juventus, and that they had been negotiating the terms of the agreement since mid-February.
"Regarding president Bartomeu's statement [Friday], we wish to state it is true that yesterday there was a meeting between Miguel Angel Gil and Barcelona CEO Oscar Grau at Barcelona's request, and that at that meeting Mr Grau expressed his intention, once the release clause of Antoine Griezmann's contract had decreased from €200m to €120m, to ask for a deferred payment of the aforementioned amount of the clause in force as of July 1.
"Atletico Madrid's response was obviously negative, as we believe Barcelona and the player have disrespected Atletico Madrid and all its fans."
Official statement regarding FC Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu's statements on Griezmann.https://t.co/0fxahHPAK9— Atletico de Madrid (@atletienglish) July 5, 2019
Atletico said Griezmann must return to the club for pre-season training.
The Wanda Metropolitano club added: "As a consequence, Atletico Madrid has instructed the player, his sister and agent and his lawyer, that Antoine Griezmann, in compliance with his contractual obligations with our club, must appear next Sunday in the club's facilities in order to start the pre-season with the rest of his team-mates.
"Through this statement, Atletico Madrid wishes to express its strongest disapproval of the behaviour of both, especially Barcelona, for prompting the player to break his contractual relationship with Atletico Madrid at a time of the season when the club was involved in the Champions League tie against Juventus, as well as the league title race against Barcelona, something that we believe violates the protected periods of negotiation with players and alters the basic rules of integrity in any sporting competition, as well as causing enormous damage to our club and its millions of fans."