“I’m not going to put him in a situation where he’s among the best players; I only ask him not to listen to what’s being said on the outside, to look to himself and to continue growing.”
Whilst Simeone may be trying to play down Antoine Griezmann’s prospects, behind the scenes Atletico’s executives are scrambling to get the Frenchman’s pen to paper for a new contract. However, amid growing Premier League interest and a sensational run of form, Griezmann’s future remains uncertain.
Atletico Madrid had hoped to tie Griezmann down to a new contract beyond 2020; Simeone previously held discussions about the extension earlier in the season. It’s understood that the negotiations have been held primarily to increase the Frenchman’s release clause ahead of any significant summer bids but have not yet been concluded.
If Simeone is to face losing his star man, he at least wants to ramp up Griezmann’s potential fee up from a minimum of £63million to £79million, removing Atletico’s obligation to sell if the asking fee is not met.
The 25-year-old has reportedly been warned by friends not to jump into a Premier League move, with fears that a lack of physical strength would make it difficult for him to deal with the style of English football. Yet reports from within the Spanish media suggest that Manchester United and Chelsea are unlikely to be dissuaded in their pursuit this summer.
Atletico have defied the odds to reach the Champions League final, thanks in-part to outstanding performances and critical strikes from the French striker against Spanish rivals, Barcelona and German giants Bayern Munich.
In the space of a few years, Griezmann has announced himself on the world stage. His performances in Europe have caught the eye of the neutral football fan and indeed Chelsea and Manchester United, who both clearly believe he can help guide them back into Europe’s biggest competition next season.
Chelsea and Manchester United are set to miss out on qualification for both the Champions League and Europa League next year, yet the two clubs are willing to pit their heavy finances against one another to persuade the 25-year-old into a move irrespectively.
Without slandering Griezmann as being over-rated, it’s easy to get carried away with youtube goal montages and video game player ratings, without really understanding how a player could potentially embed himself into a club’s system.
Di Maria’s transfer to Manchester United is a prime example of this. His talent has never been in doubt and the manner in which he tore defenders apart in La Liga left United fans salivating at the prospect of their new winger.
It never materialised though, Louis Van Gaal’s big summer signing just didn’t fit into the United system, whether a fault of the manager or otherwise.
At this stage in his career, Chelsea may yet be taking too big a gamble on Griezmann. At the very least, the French striker needs more time to develop at Atletico Madrid. The price tag will rise as he continues to improve, but with two more competitive seasons, playing for a side that suits his strengths – Griezmann will offer a far more complete proposition.
The bidding war over Griezmann seems premature and foolhardy at this stage in the Frenchman’s career – £79million is far too steep for a player enjoyed a rich vein of form.