Barcelona Transfer News: Diego Simeone Discusses Antoine Griezmann Exit Rumours

Matt JonesFeatured ColumnistDecember 14, 2017

Atletico Madrid's French forward Antoine Griezmann (L) throws the ball beside Atletico Madrid's Argentinian coach Diego Simeone during the Spanish league football match Club Atletico de Madrid vs RC Deportivo de la Coruna at the Vicente Calderon stadium in Madrid on September 25, 2016. / AFP / GERARD JULIEN        (Photo credit should read GERARD JULIEN/AFP/Getty Images)
GERARD JULIEN/Getty Images

Atletico Madrid manager Diego Simeone has said he wouldn't stand in the way of reported Barcelona target Antoine Griezmann if a "once-in-a-lifetime" offer came in for the forward.

The France international has developed into one of the elite players in European football at Atletico and has been the subject of a lot of speculation.

When asked about the links away from Madrid in an interview with L'Equipe (h/t AS), Simeone insisted he wouldn't keep Griezmann around against his will:

"If a player comes to me and says: 'Coach, I have a once-in-a-lifetime chance to play for a certain team, I want to leave'. If he did all he could for me as Griezmann does, I'll say it's no problem. I know that he needs to grow. Of course Griezmann will be able to leave at some point, the same way [Diego] Costa and Arda Turan were allowed to leave."

Atletico Madrid's Argentinian coach Diego Simeone attends the Spanish league football match between Real Betis and Atletico Madrid at the Benito Villamarin Stadium in Sevilla on December 10, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / CRISTINA QUICLER        (Photo credit should
CRISTINA QUICLER/Getty Images

According to Miguel Delaney of The Independent, Barcelona and Manchester United hold an interest in the forward, though it's suggested the La Liga leaders are far ahead of the Premier League side in pursuit of the player.

Simeone's comments are candid, and you sense Griezmann will appreciate such sincerity. As noted by Ben Hayward of Goal recently, the player and his manager have a strong bond:

The 26-year-old will be aware of how important Simeone has been in his development since arriving in the Spanish capital in 2014.

Griezmann's game has evolved so much in his time as an Atletico player. At Real Sociedad, he was regularly on the fringes of matches, only occasionally lighting up a game with his raw talent. Now he's a focal point going forward who can hurt opposition players in many different ways.

Granted, Griezmann hasn't won silverware at Atletico and has come up short in some huge games. But his performances and productivity in the final third have been crucial in pushes for La Liga and UEFA Champions League titles in recent years.

As these figures from OptaJose revealed in November, he is often the difference-maker for Atletico in tight matches:

Interest from Barcelona is understandable. Based on Simeone's quotes, Griezmann is attainable, he's proven in La Liga, and his playing style would be ideal for a club that has fluid attacking play running through its core.

Suarez, Messi and Griezmann would be a menacing prospect.
Suarez, Messi and Griezmann would be a menacing prospect.Soccrates Images/Getty Images

Additionally, Barca's attacking titans, Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez, are both over the age of 30. Griezmann, if he were to arrive, would ensure there's an extremely bright offensive future at the Camp Nou alongside Ousmane Dembele.

David Amoyal of ESPN FC believes Atletico's European struggles will trigger more speculation in January, too:

It would be a surprise if Simeone opted to sanction a deal in January, though, even with Diego Costa permitted to play for Atletico in the new year.

The Madrid side may be out of the Champions League, but they're unbeaten in La Liga and just six points behind Barcelona, who lead the way in the Spanish top flight.

If Griezmann is to move on in the summer, all tied to Atletico will be desperate to see him propel the side forward in another title charge beforehand.