Back in the summer of 2014, Arsenal appeared to be frontrunners for Antoine Griezmann’s signature.
The exciting forward, then 23, was impressing at Real Sociedad and a possible move to England’s top flight was on the cards.
However, it failed to materialise. The France international instead opted for a £24m move to Atletico Madrid in July and publicly explained his reasoning behind the decision itself when questioned months after his arrival.
“I needed a club like that and a coach like Diego Simeone to progress. I always demand intensity in training, that’s my style and I like it,” Griezmann was quoted as saying back then.
Since his switch to Atletico, he hasn’t looked back. Having continued to mature on the pitch, he has rapidly developed into a world-class talent and in particular, established himself as the driving force behind the club’s pursuit of Champions League glory last season. Defeat in two finals against Real Madrid and Portugal during the European Championships just over a month later could have dented his morale levels. With 14 goals and seven assists (all competitions) this term, it seems given him an added incentive to keep improving instead.
With 71 goals and 20 further assists in 135 club appearances for Los Rojiblancos since his transfer, he has already surpassed the goalscoring tally he totalled at Sociedad – where he predominantly played on the wing. His eye for goal and attack positioning have made him a feared attacker when coming up against opposition defences but it is becoming increasingly clear that it’s only a matter of time before he plots his next destination.
Simeone agreed a contract reduction which ends in 2018 and Griezmann has been public in his praise for the Premier League in addition to the players he already admires.
It’s clear that Arsenal were previously interested in Griezmann and although he rejected their advances at the time, it wouldn’t have stopped them keeping tabs on his progress. Given the way he has been performing over calendar year in 2016 especially, plenty of European clubs have been linked with lucrative offers for the versatile forward.
Manchester United appear to be favourites with regards to signing the Frenchman when he does decide to leave, especially given his public comments about wanting to play alongside compatriot Paul Pogba at club level. Chelsea are also reportedly interested and the situation surrounding a possible move for Diego Costa to China earlier this month just reiterated how quickly things can happen in football. Sure, the striker scored on his return and seems content to stay for now, but the Blues will be quietly working on contingency plans to avoid similar issues should one of their prized assets want to leave in the not-too-distant future.
There’s no reason why Arsenal shouldn’t be doing the same.
Alexis Sánchez and Mesut Özil are both yet to sign new contracts with the club and although they’ve still got 18 months left to run, the so-called saga is already getting tiresome. Out of the pair, questions have been asked about Alexis more and whether he’s genuinely settled at the club, which isn’t something you’d want to here in regards to a key player. Griezmann has shown his capability to play on either wing, as well as excelling further forward in a central striker role – so why not?
Recent suggestions have been made hinting that Arsenal could battle with United to sign him in the summer. Given the club’s total outlay on marquee acquisitions in recent seasons continues to increase, it does make sense. His release clause is an eyewatering £85m and there for a reason – prompting bigger sides to decide whether or not he’s worth the money whilst other teams are scared away by what they might see as an inflated price. Griezmann is yet to reach his peak and if he had an opportunity to do so for Arsenal alongside the aforementioned duo of Özil and Sánchez, you could excuse the collective optimism from supporters in their search for major trophies once again.
He is reportedly on a weekly wage in the region of £110,000-a-week and it’s inevitable that United wouldn’t hesitate to double it at the very least if they had the chance to offer him a bumper contract. £250,000-a-week is the common figure that many newspapers are suggesting and it’s unlikely that Arsenal would match their offer so it would likely go down to which side the player himself wants to join.