Diego Simeone Praises Antoine Griezmann Ahead of Imminent Atletico Madrid Exit

Matt JonesFeatured ColumnistMay 17, 2019

Atletico Madrid's Argentinian coach Diego Simeone (L) and Atletico Madrid's French forward Antoine Griezmann attend a training session at the Ciudad Deportiva Wanda training ground in Madrid on October 23, 2018 on the eve of the UEFA Champions League football match between Borussia Dortmund and Atletico de Madrid. (Photo by OSCAR DEL POZO / AFP)        (Photo credit should read OSCAR DEL POZO/AFP/Getty Images)
OSCAR DEL POZO/Getty Images

Atletico Madrid manager Diego Simeone has praised the club's outgoing forward Antoine Griezmann.

The France international confirmed this week this season would be his last at Atletico, having spent five years with the club after moving from Real Sociedad. The player's decision comes just a year on from his choice to sign a new contract in the Spanish capital amid interest from Barcelona.

Speaking ahead of Saturday's clash with Levante, a match that's set to be Griezmann's final game for Atletico, Simeone said he has no ill feeling towards the player, per Daniel Lewis of Goal:

"First of all, I am grateful for the footballer that we've had. I only have words of gratitude for Griezmann. I love him as a person. 

"I've learned not to judge the decisions of others. It's your job to have an opinion. You have to give everything without expecting anything back. When someone like Antoine gives his all for us, we're happy.

"We knew Griezmann leaving was a possibility. I spoke with Antoine before meeting with Miguel Angel [Gil, Atleti's chief executive] and Andrea [Berta, their sporting director]. I told him what I thought with affection and fondness and this was between us only."

Simeone said Griezmann gave "everything" to the Atletico cause. He also said the club will be able to thrive despite the departures of the forward, Diego Godin and Lucas Hernandez this summer, citing the likes of Radamel Falcao, Sergio Aguero and Diego Forlan who have been sold in the past.

Here is the video Atletico posted of Griezmann confirming his decision to move on:

Given the interest they had in the Frenchman a year ago, unsurprisingly the Blaugrana are being strongly linked with another move for the Atletico star:

According to Michael Butler of the Guardian, the La Liga champions are set to pay £108 million to secure the signature of the 28-year-old.

Griezmann has been essential to Atletico since arriving, growing into one of the best players in Spanish football while working under Simeone. He has adapted from being a luxury wide player into an effective centre-forward, able to create chances for his team-mate and score them himself.

Given Atletico have struggled to find a dependable partner for Griezmann during his time at the club, his departure will leave a major void in the final third. Kwiff summed up just how important he has been:

While Simeone is bullish about Atletico's ability to thrive regardless of the outgoings, in his time at the club he hasn't lost so many crucial players in quick succession. While Hernandez is a tremendous prospect, Godin and Griezmann have been colossal figures at different ends of the field.

If he does end up at Barcelona, manager Ernesto Valverde will face the challenge of how to integrate Griezmann into the side alongside the likes of Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez. However, the much more testing task will be Simeone's, as keeping Atletico competing for major honours following the Frenchman's exit is an unenviable task.

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