Antoine Griezmann has rejoined Atletico Madrid from Barcelona on loan, just two years after leaving the Wanda Metropolitano.
Atleti sold France striker Griezmann to Barca for €120million in 2019, yet he has never managed to recapture his best form at Camp Nou.
Lionel Messi’s departure to Paris Saint-Germain earlier in August might have given Griezmann the opportunity to take centre stage, but the 30-year-old received flak from the Barca fans as Ronald Koeman’s side – inspired by Memphis Depay – laboured to a win over Getafe last weekend.
Koeman defended Griezmann, saying: “I don’t like it when a Barca player is whistled. Someone who works like Antoine can never be criticised.
“All the attackers can have their day but there are games where you can’t find the space. We haven’t created opportunities for him either.”
However, LaLiga champions Atleti – who were linked with their former talisman last month – have now brought Griezmann back to the Spanish capital.
Griezmann has signed on loan for 2021-22, with the deal including the option for either club to extend it for a further year. Barca also announced there is a compulsory permanent transfer clause.
While his exit will go towards easing Barca’s financial difficulties, Atleti are bolstering an attack that already features Luis Suarez, Joao Felix and Angel Correa, as well as another new recruit in Matheus Cunha.
Atleti president Enrique Cerezo suggested last month that fans would not forgive Griezmann for how he left for Barca, who had reportedly been open to offers for the forward for some time, potentially allowing them to retain Messi.
GRIEZMANN’S BARCA STINT BY THE NUMBERS
After making much of his call to stay put at Atleti – he took part in a mini-documentary to confirm his decision before the 2018 World Cup – Griezmann completed a big-money switch a year later.
It was not without controversy, though, as Atleti insisted Barca had fallen some €80m short of the obligated fee, but the transfer was nevertheless upheld.
His first season at Camp Nou was one to forget. The coronavirus pandemic merely prolonging a dismal campaign by Griezmann’s previously lofty standards – the nadir for all involved coming in the humbling 8-2 Champions League defeat to Bayern Munich.
Yet Griezmann came into his second campaign with a renewed sense of purpose and finally seemed to click under new boss Koeman.
While still having to fit in around key man Messi, Griezmann played 51 times in all competitions, making 45 starts and clocking up 3,904 minutes in total (the second most he has managed in a campaign since his move to Atleti).
Griezmann recorded 20 goals and added 12 assists last season, while his 20 goal involvements in LaLiga trailing only Messi in Barca’s squad.
He had started in all three of Barca’s LaLiga fixtures so far this season, too, but had failed to score, provide an assist or even create a chance in those appearances.