Transfers

Antoine Griezmann-Saul Niguez swap: The latest developments & other possible destinations

Max Cooper
Griezmann and Saul could be swapping football clubs this summer
Griezmann and Saul could be swapping football clubs this summer / Quality Sport Images/Getty Images
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Now that Euro 2020 and the Copa America have come and gone, the 2021 summer transfer window is finally in full swing.

One team dominating the market this summer is Barcelona. La Blaugrana are in the depths of a financial crisis and simply have to offload as many stars as possible - valuable to the team or not - to slash their wage bill.

And yet, the latest news coming out of Camp Nou, as reported by Mundo Deportivo, is that they are trying to sign Atletico Madrid midfielder Saul Niguez, who is free to leave the current Spanish champions this summer.

Tied to those developments is the future of Antoine Griezmann, who Barça are desperate to sell due to his massive salary, and he could be set for a shock return to the Wanda Metropolitano.

But how does it all work?


Why are Barça selling Griezmann?

Antoine Griezmann
It's not really worked out for Griezmann in Catalonia / Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

The first question is, why are Barça so keen to sell a man they spent two summers chasing and paid north of €100m for his services? Well, firstly, it's because of the club's dire financial state.

The finances are so bad that Barça can't even register free signings Sergio Aguero, Memphis Depay and Eric Garcia or re-sign legend and captain Lionel Messi for next season until they reduce their wage bill by a whopping €200m.

So, the sale of Griezmann is an obligation for the club rather than just a desire. He currently earns more than €25m a year, making him the second-highest paid player at the club. On the pitch, the 30-year-old's performances and value to the team have not justified his price tag and salary, although that also comes down to his coaches failing to utilise his strengths.


The Saul-Griezmann swap deal

Antoine Griezmann, Saul Niguez
Former teammates / Soccrates Images/Getty Images

Of all Griezmann's potential switches, this is the most intriguing. The latest reports out of Spain are talking about a possible swap deal between Atleti's Saul and Barça's superstar, which would see Griezmann make a shock return to his old home.

At this point, Barça's priority is not to generate lots of cash through player sales (although it would be a bonus) but to sell enough stars to reduce the wage bill by €200m a year and thus be able to register their new signings in next season's squad.

Finally freeing themselves of Griezmann's wages only to then sign another player in Saul may feel a touch counter-productive. But the truth is, the 26-year-old earns nothing like the salary with which they're burdened in Griezmann, and his arrival on a lower wage would allow them to sell the likes of Miralem Pjanic, while boasting a ready-made replacement for another cheap piece of business.

Atleti are keen to sell Saul this summer, having signed Rodrigo De Paul from Udinese, and bringing Griezmann home as part of the deal would be a major coup. Diego Simeone squeezed the very best out of the forward during their time together, and with Los Rojiblancos currently the strongest team in Spain, it represents a good deal for the incoming player and his former club.

As it stands, talks are ongoing between the two clubs and it's more than just a rumour - this transfer could really go ahead and both clubs are confident that it will.


Barça's position on Saul-Griezmann swap

Joao Felix, Saul Niguez
Barça are also admirers of Joao Felix / Soccrates Images/Getty Images

For Barcelona, this deal is an extremely sharp double-edged sword. They are keen to sign a talented central midfielder and the arrival of Saul - who himself is very interested in a move to Camp Nou - while simultaneously releasing Griezmann from their wage bill is smart business all round.

However, they are also painfully aware that they are losing an extremely impressive forward, one they pursued for two years until finally tying him down. And selling Griezmann to Atleti would only strengthen their direct rivals - a club which already pipped them to the Liga title last year.

Los Rojiblancos are using this summer window to bolster their squad further, and with Barça having to gut their entire playing staff, the league title may only be a two-horse race between Atleti and Real Madrid next year.

Barça initially tried to include wonderkid Joao Felix in a potential swap, but Atleti outright refused to enter those negotiations.


The other clubs that want to sign Griezmann

Antoine Griezmann, David Luiz
Chelsea are interested in Griezmann / Masashi Hara/Getty Images

Of course, this is not the only potential destination for Griezmann. Luckily for Barça, the Frenchman is well sought after all around Europe and there are plenty of clubs waiting in the wings to strike a deal.

Chelsea have been described as the 'most active' in their pursuit of Griezmann and could look to sign the forward this summer. However, the Blues are known to be pressing for the signature of Borussia Dortmund starlet Erling Haaland and his arrival is their main priority.

They are not the only Premier League club linked with an audacious move for Griezmann, though. Manchester City have also been discussed as a possible new home for the World Cup winner, while Manchester United are always in the mix.

A move to Italy is perhaps less likely, although a loan deal with Milan might not be out of the question. And a return to France to join Paris Saint-Germain is always a possibility, especially if Kylian Mbappe refuses to commit his future to his current club.


Antoine Griezmann's position on the transfer

Antoine Griezmann, Diego Simeone
He wants to come home / Soccrates Images/Getty Images

Unfortunately for Barça, in order to sell Griezmann to another club, he has to be prepared to join them in the first place. The player's stance on his future has become clear: Since the emergence of this swap deal, he only has eyes for Atleti.

A return to Madrid would be the ideal outcome for the forward, as it suits him and his family down to the ground. The prospect of playing under Simeone again and working with his former teammates has convinced Griezmann that this is his best path, so much so that he is ready to reject any other approaches.

For the Frenchman, it's either a reunion with Atletico Madrid or a case of digging his heels in and forcing Barça to respect the contract they offered him back in 2019.

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