For the second summer in succession, Atletico Madrid forward Antoine Griezmann is at the centre of a transfer saga.
Reporters are hanging on his every word as they attempt to decipher possible hints over a summer move or otherwise.
The Frenchman is undoubtedly extremely talented and many would argue he leads the bracket outside of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, perhaps even ahead of Neymar.
There is no doubt that any club in the world would want his services, but why has his future become such a talking point?
It is understood that the 27-year-old gave his word to Barcelona officials that he would join the club this summer, having spent four seasons in the Spanish capital.
He wants to win La Liga and the Champions League, and also to be in with a chance of winning individual awards such as the Ballon d’Or.
He believes that he simply does not have the same opportunity of such success at Atletico, hence his openness to holding talks with the Blaugrana.
I’m in agreement that to get back to winning the Champions League we have to have the best players. And Griezmann is one of them. If the club sign him, brilliant. – Lionel Messi
Indeed, Barcelona stars have strategically placed their approval of interest in the forward on record, with Lionel Messi admitting last week that he was “excited” by the prospect of linking up with the French forward at the Camp Nou.
At the start of May, Atletico themselves released a statement questioning the conduct of their La Liga rivals, stating that such behaviour was unacceptable especially whilst the league campaign was going on.
We’re fed up with Barcelona’s attitude… [Speaking] about the future of a player with a current contract just a few days before disputing a European final is an absolute lack of respect. – Atletico CEO Miguel Angel Gil Martin.
At that point, it appeared Griezmann was set to become the latest star arrival at Barcelona, following on from big-money signings Ousmane Dembele and Philippe Coutinho.
Lessons from last year
What is in the forefront of a lot of minds is the situation of twelve months ago, when the former Real Sociedad man had continually dropped hints that he would join Manchester United that summer.
As things came to pass, Atleti’s transfer ban was upheld and the forward had a change of heart, instead renewing his deal with Los Rojiblancos.
There is a growing sense that a similar chain of events will unfold once more, only with the Catalan giants this time to be the club messed around by Griezmann, only for a late change of heart.
Atletico are said to have offered the Frenchman a significant salary increase and promises regarding investment into the club, and the likelihood is growing that this will persuade him to commit his long-term future.
Atleti’s offer is not only strong in economic terms, but it also contains a lot of sporting sense. They finished second last season and won the Europa League – two notable successes with indications that more can be achieved next season.
Highly rated midfielder Rodri, who has been capped by Spain, has arrived from Villarreal. A deal for Monaco defender Djibril Sidibe is also said to be close with other players set to follow.
Diego Costa is back and together with Griezmann, they have immediately struck up a partnership and telepathy that makes it seem they have been playing together for years. It would be wrong to say that Simeone’s side are not improving, and that Griezmann is a central part of that.
Staying brave or copping out?
Debate rages over whether Griezmann is the man to make a leap of faith and join a massive club. His mentality has been questioned – would he not be assured of a regular first-team place, or can he just simply not commit?
Perhaps he feels that his status at Barca would be overshadowed by Lionel Messi, as Neymar did twelve months ago.
This is almost certainly his last chance at a big money move, but there is also an argument that staying with Atleti and the opportunity to lead them to both domestic and European glory is actually the noble move.
What is for sure is that his conduct in negotiations, making himself the centre of attention and leading two clubs down the garden path makes him considerably less attractive to potential buyers and his decision this summer will define the remainder of his career.
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