Antoine Griezmann revealed his future (yes, he’s staying put) during a televised documentary on Thursday night, in what was an unprecedented move in terms of a player announcing their next move at club level. We have seen slapped-together announcement tweets, videos and ongoing sagas over contracts, but this was a months-long production, consciously filmed from Mâcon to Madrid to Lyon, where Atlético Madrid lifted the Europa League trophy with the help of their newly-committed maestro.
With Griezmann’s decision, the world of football transfers moved into the postmodern world, where irony, cynicism and self-referentiality become a part of the fabric. Once in a fishbowl with everyone looking in, players have become aware of this and are looking back out, laughing either with us or at us — and it’s difficult to tell which.
It’s hard to be too critical of Griezmann, a man who has been criticised for not thinking enough about his actions and comments. This, in essence, was thinking squared. It was Griezmann doing a whole lot of thinking, and thinking about the process of thinking through a decision. We are through the looking glass and nobody knows how to react. The self-indulgence people took offence to can be redeemed by the fact that Griezmann is just a guy trying to prove to the world that these decisions don’t just happen and there are real-life consequences to millionaire footballers’ choices. He is sincerely trying to bridge the gap between how the fans think things work — a signed contract in a shiny boardroom with big smiles — and how the players know they do.
“La Decisión” also follows the growing trend of athletes choosing to control their own narratives, something most commonly seen in websites like the Players Tribune.
The show, which carried the same name as LeBron James’ from 2010, had basketball references intertwined and showed just what kind of influence the game has on the French attacker’s life. He wore a black Oklahoma City Thunder baseball shirt at one point and shot buckets in another scene before blending soccer and basketball by volleying a ball through the hoop. This was soccer meeting the celebrity-driven NBA world, and while Griezmann was possibly poking fun at the joke that has become transfer sagas, he still wanted it to be earnest enough to encompass his life and his passions.
It was strange to see a person like Griezmann — who has infamously gotten himself into trouble with off-the-cuff remarks and actions like dressing up in blackface — being so heavily produced. It was bizarre in a strangely endearing way. One minute he was riding a horse, the next, kicking a plastic Atlético football against the side of his couch.
Admittedly, there was only so much Griezmann could say or do during the film. He gave the pros and cons for both sides and said he was keen to win trophies, with the Champions League being the most important. He sat and laughed with his family at another point and throughout the half hour he was visibly torn between Atlético or Barcelona.
But this was the most post-modern of transfer decisions we have ever seen. It was poking fun at itself to the point where people were slow to make fun of it because they weren’t sure who was the butt of the joke — and it might have been us, for all we know. Instead, they asked “how could Griezmann be so self-indulgent? Who does he think he is?”
There was some criticism levelled at Griezmann too for how he treated Barcelona but he owed them nothing, and looking back it’s obvious that he was going to stay given that he owes Diego Simeone and his teammates so much. You also wonder whether Atlético and Barcelona were informed before the fact and had been given an explainer as to what the thing was trying to achieve: giving the layman a look at the difficulties players face when making decisions of this magnitude.
It’s ironic too, given the fact that the Griezmanns, as a family, don’t seem comfortable or prepared to be a famous family — not that they want to be either. Antoine’s brother, Theo, had to delete his Twitter account after criticising Simeone’s football. This came after he posted pictures of Old Trafford in some kind of passive-aggressive way of turning the attention on himself. His sister, Maud, is his agent and she seems the perfect fit for the hipster client her brother seems to have become, replete with pop-culture goal celebrations and weird and wacky hairdos.
In the end, we got half an hour of giggles out of it and the decision was made. What’s important is that we don’t take it too seriously because in the end, you suspect that Griezmann, ever-the-joker, was chucking his way through the premier of his first-ever documentary.