Fernando Torres, Sergio Aguero, Diego Forlan, Falcao, Diego Costa. A striker emerges in Atletico Madrid, becomes a star and then leaves the club only for them to find an immediate replacement – this is starting to become a trend in football. Atletico Madrid’s striker factory’s latest product is the 25 year old French forward Antoine Griezmann. Antoine Griezmann is Europe’s hottest property at the moment. He is in ominous form for Atletico Madrid and has been one of the standout performers in what is shaping up to be a special season for the Rojiblancos. With an astonishing 49 goals scored in the current campaign, it is not a surprise that the big clubs across Europe are willing to break the bank for his signature.
Griezmann joined Atletico Madrid from Real Soceidad in the summer of 2014 for a sum of 24 million pounds. In his early days, he found it difficult to adapt to the high intensity and pressing game under Simeone. Fans were sceptical about his ability to fit in this side which relies on its tough fighting spirit to grind out results. He did not play a major part in the first half of the 2014 with his game time limited majorly to substitute appearances. But ever since he established himself in the 11 in the second half of the season he did not look back as he scored 25 goals in his debut season. While his debut season can be deemed as a very successful one, his second season has been nothing short of exemplary.
He played primarily as a winger during his time at Real Soceidad, cutting onto his left foot and making things happen. At Atletico, however, he majorly plays in the second striker role just off Mandzukic or Torres. However he has been given the freedom by Simeone to play his natural style in a floating role, enhancing his creativity. He is a versatile player who can drop into midfield or play out wide according to the situation. One thing he has improved leaps and bounds is his finishing. He looks like a cold blooded predator, waiting for chances to come his way before finishing them off with supreme authority. His blistering pace and dazzling dribbling skills provide the perfect outlet for a team which likes sitting back patiently and hitting opponents on the counter. With the high profile recruit Jackson Martinez failing to deliver, the onus has been on the diminutive French forward to rake in goals and he has thrived on it. While his attacking skills have been the talking point, it is really difficult for a player to forget his defensive responsibilities especially while working under Diego Simeone. He tracks back, doing his bit of the dirty work much to the liking of his manager.
There was a lot of criticism about Griezmann not turning up in big games. He has let his feet do the talking with important match winning goals against Real Madrid in the derby, a brace against Barcelona to knock them out of the Champions league and now the crucial away goal against Bayern Munich in the semi-finals. How the French love to see him carry his rich vein of form during the Euros! He is slowly but surely finding his feet for his national side evident by the fact that he has scored 2 and assisted 3 in his last 5 starts for France. With Benzema suspended and Giroud looking terribly short of confidence, France would look towards Griezmann to be the focal point of a team oozing in quality. And going by the looks of it, he seems more than ready for a dream tournament back home.
Inspite of the consistency shown by him, Simeone still however does not rate him on the level as a Messi or a Ronaldo. However, with age on his side, along with a keen desire to improve, it looks only like a matter of time that we start talking about Antione Griezmann in more elite company.