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The winter of Thomas Lemar discontent

Even Diego Simeone has admitted that the Frenchman hasn’t worked out in the Spanish capital.

Club Atletico de Madrid v CA Osasuna - La Liga Photo by Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

Antoine Griezmann has a lot to answer for.

Of course, the forward jumped ship in the summer of 2019 to join Barcelona, and the controversy and anger relating to that transfer has been well-documented. But Griezmann was also one of the main reasons Atlético Madrid signed Thomas Lemar in 2018. He convinced his international teammate to come and pushed Atlético to make the move — one that cost €70 million for just 70 percent of the player’s rights.

Griezmann is long gone now, but Lemar is still at Estadio Wanda Metropolitano and the damage of this failed transfer could be felt for several years still to come.

We’ve reached the point where Lemar can be well and truly described as a flop. That’s because the man who stuck by him longer than most has admitted as much.

“He hasn’t been able to live up to expectations,” Diego Simeone said ahead of the Jan. 4 match against Levante.

In the past, Simeone has been criticised for discarding players before even giving them a chance to really prove themselves — Jackson Martínez and his exile to China after just six months and 1,050 minutes being the most high-profile example. This hasn’t been the case with Lemar, though. The 24-year-old was the eighth-most-used player in the squad last season, and has been given 64 appearances and 3,555 minutes of playing time since joining the club.

The return is three goals, six assists and not much else. There have been no goals and no assists this season.

Atletico de Madrid v Club Atletico Osasuna - Liga Photo by Rubén de la Fuente Pérez/NurPhoto via Getty Images

In addition, the goals Lemar was directly involved in last year tended to come in fixtures against lower-tier opposition that Atlético won comfortably anyway. Only his match-winner in a 1-0 victory over Eibar, his goal and provoked own goal in a 2-0 victory over Getafe, and his assist for Griezmann in a 3-2 win over Valencia had concrete impacts on the final outcomes. Basically, the France international has contributed next to nothing to Atleti’s results since joining.

This is an immense frustration for Simeone and for the club. He was their record signing and represented a change in transfer policy. But it backfired, and the long-term consequences could be severe for a club that still lags behind Barcelona and Real Madrid on the revenue charts and needs spend money wisely — in part because the new stadium hasn’t paid for itself.

Focus has now turned to trying to find a new home for Lemar, but that’s much easier said than done. There appear to be interested teams in England, but Atlético will have to eat a huge chunk of the original transfer fee. Any interested parties are likely to want him on an initial loan. Then, even if a transfer fee is agreed it’ll be much less than €70m, and Atlético won’t even get the full amount since they only own 70 percent of the player’s rights.

Many Rojiblancos are still angry at the Griezmann situation and the €80m difference between the fee received and the player’s previous release clause. Perhaps they should be just as angry about the €70m forked out for Lemar, the most frustrating transfer of the Simeone era.