Atletico Madrid: Antoine Griezmann's Upturn and Raul Jimenez's Fall

Allan JiangTransfers CorrespondentFebruary 18, 2015

MADRID, SPAIN - JANUARY 24:  Antoine Griezmann of Club Atletico de Madrid celebrates after scoring his team's 2nd goal during the La Liga match between Club Atletico de Madrid and Rayo Vallecano de Madrid   at Vicente Calderon Stadium on January 24, 2015 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)
Denis Doyle/Getty Images

Atletico Madrid's Mexican centre-forward Raul Jimenez, 23, is stuck in a quagmire triggered by the form of French centre-forward Antoine Griezmann, 23, whose long-term future is up front rather than out wide.

Jimenez, a €11/£8.2 million signing from Club America, is facing the scrapheap to facilitate the progression of Griezmann, a €30/£22.3 million signing from Real Sociedad.

Bittersweet For Jimenez

Last August, Jimenez's career was travelling at breakneck speed.

Having scored a hat-trick in Club America's 4-0 win over Puebla, Jimenez transferred to Atletico Madrid 12 days later.

He became the most expensive Mexican footballer ever to be sold by a Liga MX team, per David Faitelson at ESPN FC.

"The dedication I've shown in each match in Mexico, I think that's what defines me," Jimenez said, per ClubAtleticodeMadrid.com. "I want to make my own history and be part of this very important club."

By the end of the month, Jimenez participated in two Madrid derbies—winning the Supercopa de Espana—and started his first La Liga game in a 0-0 draw against Rayo Vallecano.

Allan Jiang

Aside from opening up the Rayo Vallecano defence with a through ball to Atletico Madrid centre-forward Mario Mandzukic, whose shot was saved, Jimenez was anonymous, quiet and underwhelming.

Jimenez failed to register a single shot on target, falling into the back pocket of Rayo Vallecano centre-back Ze Castro, a former Atletico Madrid player, who played with a chip on his shoulder against his ex-club.

The cookie-cutter article of Jimenez being the next Hugo Sanchez was put on the back burner, as the media pried into a tangential storyline.

"[Supporting Real Madrid] is in the past," Jimenez said, per Jorge Garcia at AS. "With everything I have experienced here in this short time, I have fallen in love with Atletico Madrid."

Segments of Atletico Madrid fans were not falling in love with Jimenez, mercilessly booing him during a 2-2 draw against Celta Vigo.

Bouncing back via a glancing header in a 4-0 win over Sevilla has been the only sign Jimenez can live up to Atletico Madrid's eight-figure investment in him. 

Unfazed by Jimenez's form, Atletico Madrid manager Diego Simeone remained open-minded.

"[Jimenez] held the ball up well, and had chances to score, which is what you ask of a forward," Simeone said, per Dermot Corrigan at ESPN FC. "I hope the fans have patience with him."

  • Jimenez has scored once from 400 minutes over 13 La Liga games.
  • There are 111 players in La Liga who have scored more goals (two-plus) than Jimenez.
  • Averaging 9.7 passes, 0.8 shots, 0.2 key passes and 0.2 dribbles per game tells you Jimenez has been missing in action.
  • Losing the ball 80 percent of the time when dribbling shows you that Jimenez cannot create his own shot, struggles to separate from an opposing defender and is clumsy in possession.

Prior to Atletico Madrid's 2-1 win over Real Madrid last September, Kike Sampedro at Marca correctly predicted Simeone would replace Griezmann for Jimenez:

Diego Pablo Simeone always keeps an ace up his sleeve for big games.

Just as everybody thinks they've hit on his most likely starting XI, the Argentine surprises everyone with a secret weapon, something that usually goes exactly to plan.

If this week's training sessions are anything to go by, 'Cholo' is considering starting Raul Jimenez in place of Antoine Griezmann for this weekend's derby game against Real Madrid. 

Except, the trump card has not been Jimenez—it's Griezmann transitioning into a No. 9.

Griezmann Ascending

MADRID, SPAIN - JANUARY 03: Antoine Griezmann of Atletico de Madrid celebrates scoring their opening goal during the La Liga match between Club Atletico de Madrid and Levante UD at Vicente Calderon Stadium on January 3, 2015 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by G
Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

Griezmann's positional sense is excellent, he possesses a first-rate left-footed shot, and has Andre Ayew's sneakiness in notching up headed goals.

Signed as a left attacking midfielder, you surmised Griezmann would also be able to play on the right and cut in.

However, Simeone experimented with Griezmann up front and Jimenez out wide.

"We can play with Griezmann as a centre-forward," Simeone said, per Heath Chesters at Inside Spanish Football. "Or we can use Griezmann and Raul Jimenez floating on the wings."

Allan Jiang

Griezmann leads Atletico Madrid in La Liga goals (12) and his hat-trick in a 4-1 win over Athletic Bilbao vindicates Simeone's tactical ploy.

Factoring in Griezmann's world-class upside, he is showing signs he can go from a No. 11 to a No. 9, a la Thierry Henry.

Judging by Simeone's actions—allowing Raul Garcia to resume his deep-lying forward role and the feel-good re-signing of Fernando Torres—Jimenez generally won't be fed bread crumbs as an impact sub.

Yet, Simeone was unwilling to let Jimenez leave in the January transfer window.

"[Jimenez] will not [be loaned out because] for starters, I don't want [it to happen]," Simeone said, per EFE (h/t El Universal). "Raul is a guy who is working fine. He gets along with the team pretty well. Hopefully when his turn comes to play, he will demonstrate it in the field."

Hopefully is probably not the word that will motivate Jimenez.

Two hefty investments by Atletico Madrid: Griezmann is blooming, Jimenez is withering. 

+allanjiang.

When not specified, statistics via WhoScored.com. 

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