Saul Niguez: Antoine Griezmann 'Can Succeed Anywhere' amid Barcelona Struggles

James Dudko@@JamesDudkoFeatured ColumnistOctober 10, 2019

BARCELONA, SPAIN - OCTOBER 2: Antoine Griezmann of FC Barcelona during the UEFA Champions League  match between FC Barcelona v Internazionale at the Camp Nou on October 2, 2019 in Barcelona Spain (Photo by David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images)
Soccrates Images/Getty Images

Antoine Griezmann has what it takes to make the grade at Barcelona, according to former Atletico Madrid team-mate Saul Niguez.

The midfielder, who played five seasons with Griezmann in the Spanish capital, told Sport's Jordi Gil the forward needs time to feel at home at the Camp Nou: "A player of his level can succeed anywhere. He has to feel comfortable, important, happy. The only thing he's after is enjoying football, and if he's not enjoying the position he's playing or whatever, he won't be at his best."

Saul's reference to Griezmann's position and status are telling amid questions about how the Frenchman is fitting into a star-studded Barca forward line.

Griezmann swapped Atleti for Barcelona during the summer in a deal worth €120 million. The early returns have been modest: three goals and a pair of assists from nine appearances in all competitions.

There has been speculation attacking talisman Lionel Messi didn't want Griezmann to sign, which Barca's prolific No. 10 called a "lie" during a recent interview with RAC1 (h/t Goal's Dom Farrell).

A report from Le10 Sport (h/t MailOnline's Daniel Davis) suggested Griezmann could be used to help Barca bring back Neymar from Paris Saint-Germain next summer.

Earlier in October, Griezmann revealed he and Messi have found it "difficult" to talk, per Ben Hayward of the London Evening Standard. Griezmann also went into detail about his problems replicating his performances for Atletico at his new club: "I have just arrived to a new playing philosophy, to a different position on the pitch. I have to learn things. To improve. Change my movements."

Fitting in alongside Messi and Luis Suarez has been an issue for a player who was the main man up top for Atleti. Specifically, playing wide left in a front three has yet to bring out the best in Griezmann.

Although the 28-year-old often made runs off the left from out to in for Atletico, he essentially operated in a free role. It's been harder to have the same licence to roam in a Barca side wherein Messi is the roving genius and Suarez bosses the middle as a deadly No. 9.

Griezmann's rapport with Messi has been questioned.
Griezmann's rapport with Messi has been questioned.LLUIS GENE/Getty Images

There's no coincidence about the fact that two of Griezmann's three goals in a Barca shirt came when Messi was missing from the lineup with a thigh injury earlier in the season.

Griezmann's own reference to a new philosophy is also telling. At Atletico, he was the finisher, the ultimate weapon for a counter-attack game played by a team built to absorb pressure and strike selectively and ruthlessly on the break.

By contrast, Barca are still defined by dominance of possession even though this side is not as adept on the ball as the great teams underpinned by Andres Iniesta and Xavi Hernandez in midfield.

Griezmann needs to get up to speed in new ways of thinking and playing, and he needs to do it fast. The presence of fellow France international Ousmane Dembele only adds to the pressure on him.

Dembele starred in the recent 4-0 demolition of Sevilla at the Camp Nou, but he is set to miss two matches, including the Clasico against Real Madrid on October 26, after picking up a red card, per Rob Train of AS.

Griezmann, who was on the bench against Sevilla, must seize the chance to put any rumours he is ill-suited to Barca to bed.

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