Antoine Griezmann has informed Atletico Madrid that he will leave this summer, with sources confirming to ESPN FC that Barcelona are hopeful of signing him less than one year after he turned them down.
Atletico released a short statement Tuesday revealing that Griezmann had communicated his decision to leave the club after five seasons. They followed that up by posting a video of the French forward on social media explaining his decision to supporters.
“After speaking with [coach Diego Simeone], [CEO Miguel] Angel Gil Marin and with people in the club’s hierarchy, I wanted to speak with you, the fans,” Griezmann said. “You have always shown me a lot of love and I wanted to be the first to tell you that I’ve taken the decision to leave to see other things and take on other challenges.
“It’s been a difficult route to take, but it’s what I feel I need. Thanks for everything during five fantastic years here, where I was able to win my first big trophies. There have been some incredible moments that I will always remember. You, the supporters, will always be in my heart.”
ESPN FC first reported in March that Griezmann, 28, wanted to leave Atletico at the end of the season. He had been offered to a number of Europe’s biggest clubs, including Barca, although the Catalans weren’t initially interested in reopening talks to sign him after he turned them down after last summer’s events.
The 2018 World Cup winner with France has played his entire professional career in Spain, having arrived to Atletico from Real Sociedad in 2014. Another club with interest in Griezmann is Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain.
Barca thought they had a deal in place to sign Griezmann before the World Cup and were caught off guard when, days before the tournament began in Russia, he released a documentary called “The Decision,” which ended with him committing his future to Atletico. He later signed a new deal at the Wanda Metropolitano.
However, Griezmann has had a change of heart since then and Barca, after much debate among the board, have also changed their minds since the possibility of signing him re-aired in March.
Griezmann scored a team-leading 133 goals in 256 games across all competitions in five seasons for the club. His 126 La Liga goal involvements (goals and assists) in that span are fourth in La Liga behind Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Griezmann won three titles in his five seasons with Atleti: the 2017-18 Europa League, 2018 UEFA Super Cup and 2014 Spanish Super Cup. He also missed a penalty in the 2016 UEFA Champions League final penalty-shootout loss to Real Madrid.
President Josep Maria Bartomeu told ESPN FC last month that there were no bad feelings with Griezmann over the documentary, which he labeled “water under the bridge.” Barca have since made Griezmann, along with Ajax defender Matthijs de Ligt, one of their main targets for the summer.
The humiliating Champions League loss to Liverpool last week further enhanced the club’s opinion that they need to add fresh blood to an aging squad.
Griezmann, meanwhile, has seen Atletico stagnate. They are on course to finish second in La Liga but came up short in the Champions League and the Copa del Rey. His closest ally in the squad, Diego Godin, also announced last week that he would leave when his contract expires in the summer. Griezmann cried at Godin’s goodbye news conference.
Sources have told ESPN FC that Atletico were not informed by Griezmann where he will move, but he did tell them he will deposit his release clause with the league at the start of July. His current clause is €200 million, but it will drop to €120 million on July 1.
Barca could try to negotiate a deal with Atletico, but sources close to the club have said the Spanish champions remain reluctant to open talks before July when Griezmann’s clause dips, due to the fact the Rojiblanco reported them to FIFA for making an illegal approach to Griezmann at the end of 2017.