As initially stated in Mundo Deportivo – and since corroborated in other, more famous points of sale – Atlético Madrid and Barcelona are studying a seismic swap deal that would see Antoine Griezmann return to the Spanish capital.
Saúl Ñíguez would head the other way to join other Barcelona players who cannot register to play in La Liga because of the club’s overwhelming debt.
It’s the motivator behind every move Barcelona will make this summer – cutting the payroll in order to officially sign Lionel Messi for a new contract.
But Barca’s problems are unique, and they are such that the league can lower the team’s salary cap to 160 million euros this coming season – two years ago the Catalan club had a salary cap of 671 million euros for the players of his first team. New president Joan Laporta has already failed in his efforts to convince his highest paid bench drivers – like Miralem Pjanić and Samuel Umtiti – to terminate their contracts and leave.
So given the slowness of the market in this transfer window, there is now a belief at Camp Nou that if Messi finally renews, then Griezmann must leave because of the disproportionate impact of their two salaries on the payroll.
Meanwhile, Atlético have had a problem the size of Saúl since stories emerged about his desire to leave the club. The 26-year-old has had a bad 2020/21 season as Atleti won the championship anyway, and recent speculation has linked him to a move to Liverpool. It is not clear whether a firm offer has been made, but reports have always claimed Atleti are willing to make a deal if a club come up with an offer between € 40m and € 50m.
Which brings us to the Mundo Deportivo bombshell on Saturday.
Ronald Koeman is still in shock after losing free agent Georginio Wijnaldum to Paris Saint-Germain, and Saúl – versatile, energetic, experienced – has the box-to-box profile the Dutch coach wants in midfield . Saúl’s salary is considerably lower than Griezmann’s, and the Atlético mainstay won’t even have to leave Spain for a change of scenery.
As for Griezmann, it’s no secret that his two-year stay at Barcelona produced less than desirable results. The 30-year-old has had a solid season in 2020/21, when he scored 13 goals and assisted seven more in La Liga, but he’s not what he was three years ago.
Griezmann’s national form has been inconsistent since his € 120million transfer, reflecting difficulties in playing more or less as a full winger – and under three different coaches. The player left Atlético ostensibly “to win trophies” and won a lone Copa del Rey in two seasons.
Yet even if Griezmann’s departure in 2019 left a bad taste, Simeone would be delighted to be reunited with his old talisman, and the player’s family fondly remember life in Madrid. Enrique Cerezo also doesn’t hold a grudge against Griezmann and has professed her desire to see him return one day.
My opinion is that Atlético shouldn’t be keen on helping Barcelona out of their financial hell and handing over a midfielder valued at € 50million while doing so. Atleti should not welcome overpayments either racist Griezmann returns to the fold after winning the league without him, seeing João Félix (in the first half of the season) and Ángel Correa (in the second half) replace the Frenchman overall.
The Spanish champions are due to sign a replacement for Luis Suárez this summer, as well as finalize the transfer of Rodrigo De Paul from Udinese and find another option at left-back. It would be a bad decision.