The Antoine Griezmann Experiment Has Failed - But Barcelona Are to Blame for Another Transfer Disasterclass

Griezmann has struggled so far at Barça
Griezmann has struggled so far at Barça | Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

As human beings, from an early age we experience an innate desire of wanting things we can't have. Young kids snatch their siblings' toys, not necessarily because they want them, but purely to deny someone else the happiness they can provide.

This need of claiming what isn't yours does not always die after adolescence, however, and it can carry over into adulthood - or even to your favourite football club.

Antoine Griezmann
Griezmann joined Barcelona in the summer of 2019 | DeFodi Images/Getty Images

For Barcelona, being happy wasn't enough. They wanted others to be miserable, too. And so, after pursuing the services of Atletico Madrid star Antoine Griezmann for the best part of two years, they eventually landed their man in the summer of 2019.

The player who arrived was not the same man they'd chased following his superb displays at Euro 2016, however. Now beyond his prime, and off the back of his statistically-worst season since arriving in Madrid back in 2014, Barça had paid well over the odds for a forward rapidly approaching 30.

But hey, even if the deal was pushed through purely for la Blaugrana to assert their dominance over their title rivals - and to show Diego Simeone who's boss - they were still getting a top quality player, after all.

Fast-forward 12 months, and Barcelona are in chaos. The club's decision to splash €120m on Griezmann appears very ill-advised. The Spanish champions are in financial ruin, so much so that promising midfielder Arthur has been sacrificed to balance the books ahead of FFP's possible intervention.

Add to that catastrophe the return of Philippe Coutinho from Bayern, who they can't seem to give away for love nor money, and the terminally-injured Ousmane Dembélé, and there is very little to cheer regarding the running of the club.

So when Barça coach Quique Setien confessed that Griezmann's presence on the pitch has a 'destabilising' effect on the rest of the team on Tuesday evening, the club's hierarchy probably sunk to their knees in despair.

The flopping Frenchman made a 90th-minute cameo against former side Atleti, a club where he was heralded as the superstar of a hard-working and united group. At the core of their success was coach Diego Simeone, who said after the 2-2 draw in Catalonia that he was 'without words' over the treatment of his former talisman.

So Simeone doesn't understand what's going wrong, but why exactly has it all fallen to pieces for Griezmann and Barcelona? Well, in fairness to the striker, his arrival at Camp Nou has coincided with the club's biggest slump in recent history.

In January 2020, Ernesto Valverde became the first Blaugrana coach to be sacked midseason for 17 years, and replacement Setien has hardly brought the glory years flooding back with his style of play and management.

Time has marched on - as it always does - meaning Griezmann is now playing alongside a 33-year-old Lionel Messi. He's still the best player in the world, but his powers are naturally waning. Slightly. Add to that the ageing and out-of-form Luis Suarez, coupled with an incredibly elderly and slow midfield, and the external factors quickly begin to stack up.

But in terms of crises, we must look inwards to really seek the root of the issue. The main criticism that should be fired towards the number 17 is his inability to adapt to his new surroundings. As mentioned, Griezmann was the king of Atleti. He was irreplaceable in that side, and although the team was built on grit and passion, his teammates still played for him, allowing him to thrive and reap the rewards.

Antoine Griezmann
Griezmann celebrates a goal against AS Roma in the Champions League | Power Sport Images/Getty Images

Unfortunately, when you join a club of Barcelona's stature, there are no such luxuries. And given the evident clash in styles between the two sides, it beggars belief that los Cules pegged Griezmann to fit their neat, possession-based style of play.

The days of the real tiki-taka are long gone in Catalonia, but they remain the pass-masters, dominating the ball and breaking down opponents with their relentless prodding and probing. This patient, attractive style stands in polar opposite to the blood and glory that took place across in Madrid.

Then, setting styles aside, another issue stands out - and it's the dilemma that has left Setien scratching his head. Where does Griezmann actually fit into this side? Well, traditionally he would occupy the space which is currently owned by a certain Leo Messi. That number ten role is the Argentine's for life, and for as long as he pulls on the red and blue shirt, he will always be top dog. And rightly so.

Coutinho has not been a success at Barça thus far
Coutinho has not been a success at Barça thus far | TF-Images/Getty Images

You'd think that after signing Coutinho, who clearly had no obvious role in the team, and subsequently having to loan him out, they might have learned from that debacle. Maybe not.

Griezmann has been shipped out to the left side of the front three attack throughout the season, but again, he's not the type of player they want in that role in the long-term. In fact, Neymar's shadow looms large over Camp Nou, and talk of the Paris Saint-Germain star's potential return to La Liga only highlights just how little impact the Frenchman has made.

Eight goals and four assists in La Liga tells us all we need to know about how much Griezmann has struggled. He has never looked on the same wavelength as his Barça teammates, who drop balls into pockets of space that the ex-Atleti man wouldn't even consider venturing into, causing plenty of frustration within the team.

If you can't link up with Messi, then you're fighting a losing battle.

And as for the man himself? Well, from the off there have been rumours of friction within the dressing room, with Griezmann's personality rubbing some of the other big names up the wrong way.

The fact he made a video called 'La Decision' to announce he was staying at Atleti in the summer of 2018 will have done him few favours when eventually making the switch in the following summer, and his lavish and ego-centric celebrations are rather out of touch with the team's ethic.

All in all, it's been a disaster from start to finish, and now with a 29-year-old misfit on their books whose resale value is dropping by the month, time may have already run out on this costly experiment.

Many supporters are desperate for Griezmann to succeed at Barcelona, but with such glaring clashes in both personality and style of play, the time may have come for both parties to accept a fresh start.

Some things are just not meant to be.