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Rafa Mir enters the scene as Atlético’s Griezmann chase slows

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The rojiblancos could have their choice when it comes to finalizing next season’s attack.

Japan v Spain - U-24 International Friendly
Rafa Mir of Spain in action during the U-24 international friendly match between Japan and Spain at the Noevir Stadium Kobe on July 17, 2021 in kobe, Hyogo, Japan.
Photo by Masashi Hara/Getty Images

The speedy negotiations that reportedly took place between Atlético Madrid and FC Barcelona over a Saúl Ñíguez-Antoine Griezmann swap deal...have now slowed down.

Mundo Deportivo reported Monday morning that Barcelona have all but ruled out exchanging Griezmann for Saúl. But the Frenchman’s new-found influence and lengthy contract mean he can still hand-pick his next destination — and Barça’s economic reality means president Joan Laporta must consider a sale so the club’s other signings can be finalized.

France v Switzerland - UEFA Euro 2020 - Round of 16 Photo by DeFodi Images via Getty Images

Nevertheless, club-friendly Catalan media continues to place Barça in a position of power it isn’t really in. Laporta has little leverage with other teams that may (or may not) want Griezmann — interest in the forward from the Premier League has cooled since his move to Manchester United broke down in 2017. Meanwhile, Atlético do not feel any pressure to include other players in an already-complex deal, and the club can leverage the English interest that exists for Saúl.

Besides, the Spanish champions might end up paying the transfer fee Barça would like for Griezmann to Wolverhampton Wanderers instead.

Marca reported Monday that Atlético are interested in signing Wolves forward Rafa Mir, who starred on loan at relegated Huesca last season. Sporting director Andrea Berta has long admired the Murcia-born player, who came up through Valencia’s academy before Wolves purchased him in 2018. If the Griezmann reunion ultimately breaks down, Atleti can simply shift focus in this direction to complete the attack for 2021/22.

Cadiz CF v SD Huesca - La Liga Santander Photo by Fran Santiago/Getty Images

After loan spells at Las Palmas and Nottingham Forest, Mir scored a career-best 13 goals in 2020/21 — only three Spanish forwards bested that total in LaLiga. The 24-year-old is an aggressive, volume shooter who also won nearly four aerial duels per 90 minutes last season.

Mir — who will be playing at the Summer Olympics with Spain starting this week — could be an effective backup or even partner for Luis Suárez. Though his signing wouldn’t be particularly flashy, Mir could give Diego Simeone’s attack a balance it didn’t always have last season — neither Diego Costa (before January) nor Moussa Dembélé (after January) really challenged Suárez for minutes. As a result, Simeone could rarely afford to give his 34-year-old sniper a breather in the second half of the season.

Either way, Atlético are in an advantageous position and are not in any rush to complete the attacking puzzle — even as the preseason begins Friday with a friendly against Numancia.