The battles rages on. Not the Antoine Griezmann and Barcelona vs Atlético Madrid one, the other one: Atlético’s fight to be welcomed into the fraternity of the elite.
Despite their continued success under Diego Simeone and their destruction Spain’s duopoly, they are still fighting the good fight. While they occasionally get to dine at the same table as Europe’s biggest clubs, they still aren’t on the RSVP list by default.
Barcelona acquired Griezmann at their second time of asking this summer when the Catalan paid his €120 million release clause. Dotted lines were signed and money was deposited into LaLiga’s offices, but the saga hasn’t ended yet.
Atlético initially rejected completely Barcelona’s idea of staggered payments. When they eventually stumped up the money in full, Atlético said Griezmann signed a deal with the Catalans before his release clause dropped from €200 million on July 1.
“If [Atlético] is willing to say that, then they would have evidence,” club president Enrique Cerezo said, both enigmatically and threateningly. But so far, Atlético haven’t been able to provide proof of the tapping-up supposedly done to their now-former player.
Miguel Ángel Gil Marín told ESPN that he has the evidence but was coy about what that means exactly. “Now we are starting to have conversations with legal services. We don’t want to do gratuitous damage between the club, the complaint will follow it’s course. We will see what happens in the next few weeks,” he said which is at odds with how forceful the official statement the club released was.
LaLiga president Javier Tebas confirmed on Tuesday that Atlético had indeed sent a legal letter to the league offices in search of answers — and an extra €80 million. They even want Griezmann’s playing license to be revoked until all is sorted out. Tebas said there won’t be a solution soon — considering the slow-moving cogs of Spanish bureaucracy and the stubbornness of the sides involved, he’s probably right.
Everyone with even a smidgeon of common sense can understand what’s happening here. Atlético and Barcelona are protecting their own interests, and that’s understandable to a point. Atlético want to be treated with respect and they want to let it be known that, like a dog with a bone, they won’t quit. Their threats don’t ring hollow and they will chase down what they believe is rightfully theirs.
But while the Rojiblancos fight to change their perception, they need to close the chapter on the Griezmann saga. If they don’t have proof of wrongdoing, they are just crying over spilled ink — and they don’t know when that ink was spilled. The intended effects of their pursuit of money and respect they feel they deserve have been inverted. Like the jilted lover who continually feels the need to explain that they’re over their ex, it feels like Atlético trying to convince themselves rather than anyone else, while looking petty and needy in equal measure.
Eighty million euros is a lot of money. But as Cerezo said, if someone was to make claims as bold as Atlético have done, then they would not be shy to let it be known they have evidence of malpractice. Their hinted lines that they might have evidence suggest they don’t.
Atlético, in some ways, have moved on. They have signed João Félix, a gem of a teenager brought in to ease the club into this new and bold era at the club. James Rodriguez and Christian Eriksen have both been linked to the club, and young and experienced players alike have been brought to ensure Atlético keep up the fight against their lower status, as it were, in both Spanish and European football.
If Atlético are the club they want to be and think they are, they should lick their wounds, protect themselves against this happening in the future and pour resources into making sure the next project is more dynamic and simply better than the one with Griezmann.