Why Asshole Griezmann Should Be the First Name on Every European Giant’s Summer Transfer Wishlist

?Antoine Griezmann, then. Player of the Tournament at Euro 2016, third best player at the 2018 World Cup, Player of the Year in La Liga for 2016, third in the Ballon d’Or voting twice in the last three years. World Cup winner. Europa League winner. UEFA Super Cup winner. 

It’s been a handy few years for the Frenchman. He moved from Real Sociedad almost five years ago, and has improved season on season since then. In that time, he’s been more or less the only attacking player to flourish in Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid setup, scoring at least 15 league goals (and 25 goals in all competitions) every single season since his arrival.

That would be great consistency for a leading striker. He isn’t that. Griezmann routinely plays as a second striker, drifting between midfield and attack to find his own gaps. At the start of his Atleti career, that role bled into some selfishness, the need to do the job all alone. No other ?Atletico Madrid player has hit 15 league goals or 25 overall goals once since he arrived, and some of the blame fell on the Frenchman for that. 

It’s a lot harder to place that blame on him now that he’s led the team in assists for the last three seasons. It’s even harder to see that when you actually watch him play – charging around the pitch, tracking back, starting attacks in his own half and sacrificing himself for the team in a way that true superstar forwards rarely do. 

He’s not just the perfect player for Simeone’s Atleti now, he’s almost the perfect player full stop. If it wasn’t for Lionel Messi being ?Lionel Messi, he’d be the premiere player in La Liga and it wouldn’t be close. 

He’s also kind of an asshole. 

For all that he’s selfless with his work rate on the pitch, Griezmann has managed to create more contract drama around himself in the last 12 months than Messi and Ronaldo combined – and one of those two actually moved. He put out vague tweets, he filmed an entire documentary to announce that he was…staying at Atleti this last summer. 

Now he’s considering a move. Again. 

Thing is, despite being a World Cup winner and European championship semi-finalist, Griezmann turns 28 on Thursday and the only league title he’s won was in the Segunda Division. He’s been the best player for the world’s best team in their last two tournaments, but he’s never won the Champions League. He’s taken Atletico Madrid as far as he can, but they just won’t allow themselves to be carried over the hump. 

He lost some good will from Atleti fans with his antics in the summer, almost holding the club hostage and getting a massive new contract in the bargain. That contract has a release clause which will drop to €120m in the summer and, for a player of his quality, any club who can remotely afford that will be looking very hard at making an offer – except ?Barcelona, who got burned by his rejection last summer.

Agitating for a move less than a year later is an asshole move. If Angel Correa pulled this, or ?Thomas Lemar, the answer would be simple. Boot in the backside, out the door, wave goodbye. 


That’s not an option when it comes to Griezmann. Jan Oblak, Diego Godin (who might be leaving this summer) and Jose Gimenez are the solid base of the team, Rodri, Saul and Koke all are brilliant supplementary pieces, but Griezmann is the crucial, beating heart. Atleti don’t work without him. 

It doesn’t matter if Antoine Griezmann is an asshole, because he’s brilliant. If the highest bid wins, pray to god it’s your club who makes it. 

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Barcelona Confirm Length of Luis Suarez’s Lay-Off Following Injury Against Real Betis

?FC Barcelona have revealed that striker Luis Suarez is set for up to 15 days on the sidelines following the ankle injury he sustained in the 4-1 victory over Real Betis on Sunday night. 

Suarez notched both a goal and an assist in the impressive win at the Benito Villamarin Stadium, before he was forced off in the 90th minute with the knock.


And, as revealed on the club’s official website, he is now set to miss the upcoming international break after a medical examination revealed a sprain to his right ankle.

In a statement, the club said: “Tests carried out on Monday morning have confirmed that first team player ?Luis Suárez has a sprained right ankle. He will be out for 10-15 days and now undertake his recovery with the FC Barcelona medical team, having been withdrawn from the Uruguayan national team squad.

“Suárez was taken off late on in the 1-4 win against Real Betis at the Benito Villamarín, having scored his side’s third goal and provided an assist for ?Leo Messi, and was replaced by Carles Aleñá.

Luis Suarez,Lionel Messi

“His goal was his 18th in ?La Liga this season, and he is the second top scorer in La Liga behind only Messi (29). It also took him level with Diego Forlán as the Uruguayan with the most goals in the division of all time, with 128.”

Barcelona’s statement has allayed early fears that the striker ?could miss the Champions League quarter final first leg with Manchester United on 10 April.

Following the comprehensive win at Betis, La Blaugrana now sit 10 points clear at the top of the table, after chasers Atletico Madrid stumbled to a 2-0 loss to Athletic Bilbao on Saturday.

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Lionel Messi Admits Real Betis Fans Applauding Him for Hat-trick Goal Is a Career First

?Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi has won trophy after trophy and set records galore during his illustrious career, but the Argentine icon managed a first this week after his hat-trick helped the Catalans hammer Real Betis to go 10 points clear at the top of La Liga.

Messi was applauded by Betis fans inside Estadio Benito Villamarín when he scored his hat-trick goal to make it 4-1, something the Barça captain said had never previously happened to him.

Real Betis Balompie v FC Barcelona - La Liga

Messi’s delightful chipped finish saw Betis supporters put football’s traditional automatic dislike of opposing players to one side and applaud the genius in front of them.

“I don’t remember being applauded by rival fans for a goal before,” ?he said afterwards.


The hat-trick was Messi’s fourth of this campaign and 33rd of his career to date.

The goals were his 37th, 38th and 39th of the season in all competitions, while his 21 assists means the five-time Ballon d’Or winner has already directly contributed to 60 goals in 2018/19.

Defeat for Atletico Madrid at the hands of mid-table Athletic Bilbao on Saturday also meant that Barça’s Messi-inspired win on Sunday sent the reigning champions 10 points clear at the top of the table and virtually certain to retain their title.


Another Spanish crown this season would be the 10th of Messi’s career, while Barça are also on course to win a fifth successive Copa del Rey and have a strong chance of going all the way in the Champions League for the first time since 2015.

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Twitter Reacts to Yet Another Lionel Messi Masterclass as Barcelona Dispatch Real Betis 4-1

Lionel Messi was in typically inspired form ?for Barcelona on Sunday evening, scoring a majestic hat-trick as La Blaugrana comfortably dispatched Real Betis 4-1.

The diminutive Argentinean rarely surprises anymore but, even by his ridiculously lofty standards, he played an absolute blinder and is no doubt going to be the source of Betis defenders’ nightmares for weeks to come.

Real Betis Balompie v FC Barcelona - La Liga

His first strike of the night was a gorgeous free-kick from long range that sailed into the top right hand corner, his second a cool finish after a majestic back heel assist from Luis Suarez and his third an utterly outrageous chip from the left hand corner of the 18-yard-box.

Social media was understandably in a frenzy after the match, lauding ?Messi with an abundance of praise.

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The hat-trick was the 51st of Messi’s career and, judging by the quality of all three goals, potentially one of his most impressive.

Plenty on Twitter also pointed out that Betis supporters gave the ?Barcelona talisman a standing ovation at the end of the match, highlighting just how impressive he was on the night.




The win was also significant for Messi, as it meant that he had surpassed the record set by Barcelona legend Xavi to become the player with the most wins in the club’s history.



And finally, whilst he was doing his very best to prove that he isn’t human, Messi did show that he isn’t always perfect when he struck an easy looking chance against the post from just six-yards out. There may be hope for the rest of La Liga just yet.


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Real Betis 1-4 Barcelona: Report, Ratings & Reaction as Messi Hat-Trick Extends La Blaugrana’s Lead

A Lionel Messi hat-trick helped ?Barcelona move ten points clear of the La Liga chasing pack after a convincing and ruthless display over Real Betis at the Benito Villamarín Stadium.

Despite a positive start from the hosts, it was the league leaders who struck first when Messi found the top corner with a stunning 20-yard free kick in the 18th minute.

FBL-ESP-LIGA-BETIS-BARCELONA

Betis refused to give up on their principles of passing football following Messi’s goal, and they created a number of chances, but were made to pay for not taking them right before half time thanks to Messi’s devastating finish following a spectacularly smooth one-two with Luis Suarez.

?Suarez missed several clear chances in the second half, but his wonderful run and emphatic finish in the 63rd minute ended any hopes of a comeback.


Betis substitute Loren Moron pulled one back for his side, before Messi’s unbelievable first time chip completed the Argentine’s hat-trick, even drawing applause from the home crowd for his magnificent performance.


BARCELONA

Key Talking Point

Following Atletico Madrid’s defeat at Athletic Bilbao the previous evening, the door was open for Ernesto Valverde’s side to go ten points clear at the top of La Liga and all but claim their 26th title.

But the Catalan club would have been well aware that if anyone in La Liga could attempt to match ?Barcelona’s passing game, it would be Betis. The home side made life difficult for Barca at times, but always looked at risk when trying to build from the back.

FBL-ESP-LIGA-BETIS-BARCELONA

La Blaugrana were as clinical as ever at the Benito Villamarín Stadium, and if ?Messi continues to perform as well as he currently is, Barca will have their eyes firmly set on a historic treble.

Ernesto Valverde will have been incredibly pleased with the speed in which Barca hit their opponents on the counter attack, but just like against Lyon in the week, this was the Messi show.


Player Ratings

Starting XI: Ter Stegen (7); Roberto (6), Pique (8), Lenglet (6), Alba (7); Vidal (7), Busquets (7), Arthur (7), Rakitic (7); Suarez (8), Messi (9).

Substitutes: Semedo (6), Alena (N/A), Coutinho (N/A)


Star Man – Lionel Messi

When a set of fans feel they have no choice but to applaud the performance an opposition player, you know you are witnessing a special individual

The 31-year-old put in yet another sensational display to claim his 33rd La Liga hat-trick, including a world-class free kick and majestic first time chip with the goalkeeper essentially on his line.


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With the La Liga title race essentially over, the rest of Europe needs to take notice that the icon is on top form right now, something that will certainly concern those of a Manchester United persuasion, with the Champions League quarter final coming up.

A breathtaking performance once again from a man we have run out of superlatives for.


Looking Ahead

Following next weekend’s international break, Barcelona will face a local derby against Espanyol at Camp Nou. This will precede a visit to Villarreal, before the big game against their closest title rivals Atletico Madrid on April 6 at home.

Real Betis will continue their push for European football when they travel to relegation threatened Rayo Vallecano in two weeks’ time, before facing a visit to mid-table Real Sociedad.

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Barcelona Hesitant to Pursue Deal for Celta Vigo Striker Maxi Gomez Due to Non-EU Status

?Barcelona may not pursue a deal for Celta Vigo striker Maxi Gomez as they already have the maximum number of non-EU players registered in their squad.

Gomez has been in decent form for La Liga stragglers Celta this season, registering nine goals and five assists. As a result, the Uruguayan has been on the radar of plenty of top sides across Europe and looks certain to be on the move if Celta suffer relegation to the second division.

FBL-ESP-LIGA-REAL MADRID-CELTA

Barcelona are said to be one of the interested parties but, according to ?Marca, the Blaugrana may face some difficulties if they are to pull off a move this summer.

Spanish rules state that clubs are only allowed to have three non-EU players registered at any one time. Barcelona already have those slots filled through ?Arturo Vidal, Arthur and Malcom. Philippe Coutinho does not apply as he was accepted for Portuguese dual citizenship last year.

As a result of this, Barcelona would have to move on one of Vidal, Arthur or Malcom if they are to bring in Gomez.

Malcom

The future of Arthur is non-negotiable, but it remains to be seen how the club will deal with Vidal and Malcom. Marca go on to claim that the sale of Malcom is the most likely outcome after he has failed to make much of an impression during his debut season.

If Barcelona are to commit to bringing in Gomez, he is unlikely to cost the club an extortionate transfer fee. The 22-year-old currently has a 50m release clause and, if Celta are relegated, that clause would then be reduced to 25m.

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Real Betis vs Barcelona: Ernesto Valverde’s Best Available Barça Lineup

?Ernesto Valverde’s Barcelona travel to Real Betis looking to tighten their grip on the La Liga trophy with a fifth straight league win on Sunday.

The Catalan giants look like a team on a mission after hitting five against Olympique Lyonnais in the Champions League in midweek, but will have to be wary of a Betis side that produced the upset of the season with a famous 4-3 victory at Camp Nou back in November.

With Barça competing for another treble winning season to match the 2008/09 and 2014/15 seasons, Valverde won’t want complacency to creep in and looks set to play a strong side to overcome a dangerous Beticos team.

Here’s how? Barcelona could lineup in the Benito Villamarin for Sunday’s ?La Liga clash. 


1. Goalkeeper & Defenders

Gerard Pique,Moussa Dembele

Marc-Andre ter Stegen (GK) – Still only 26 years old, the German international has kept 11 La Liga clean sheets so far this season and is such an asset with his distribution.

Nelson Semedo (RB) – His pace offers a real attacking threat when the forwards play narrow and makes him a tricky defender to beat.  

Gerard Pique (CB) – Still one of the best centre backs in Europe and has played every league game – only missed one Champions League game this season too.

Clement Lenglet (CB) – Signed from Betis’ arch rivals Sevilla in the summer, the 23-year-old Frenchman has made the most of Samuel Umtiti’s knee injury and has forged a good relationship with Pique. Will be desperate to impress after missing out to teammate Umtiti for Euro 2020 qualification.  

Jordi Alba (LB) – His nine assists from left back show what a brilliant attacking threat he is. Adds a different dimension to their dynamic attacks and his overlapping runs have become a trademark.


2. Midfielders

Sergio Busquets (CDM) – Nicknamed the “Octopus of Badia” because he has a solution to every problem. Has made that pivot defensive midfield role his own and is key to his team’s build up play.

Ivan Rakitic (CM) – The 31-year-old Croat is so influential in the midfield that it feels like he’s been at Camp Nou his whole career. Still one of the best all-round midfielders in Europe.

Arthur (CM) – Signed from Gremio, this young Brazilian has adapted to Spanish football superbly and his passing ability makes him the ideal fit for the Barça style of play.


3. Forwards

Lionel Messi

Lionel Messi (RW) – Scored a brace in midweek and bagged a double when these two sides last met in November. Already on 26 league goals and has 36 in all competitions – reaching the 30-goal milestone for the 11th consecutive season for the club.

Luis Suarez (ST) – A constant nuisance to defenders and possibly the deadliest finisher in world football given space. His impressive tally of 17 league goals puts him second behind Messi in the overall standings.

Philippe Coutinho (LW) – Hasn’t been able to replicate the form that secured him a £142m move from Liverpool in January last year. Has played in 25 league games this season but, with only four goals and two assists, needs to contribute more to cement his place in the side.

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Ernesto Valverde Admits Taking Risk With Injured Barcelona Winger Ousmane Dembele

?Barcelona manager Ernesto Valverde has admitted that his decision to play Ousmane Dembele against Lyon on Wednesday backfired as the French attacker aggravated an existing hamstring injury.

Dembele was brought on from the bench against Lyon during the club’s Champions League last 16 clash, despite being an injury doubt for the match.

The attacker is now likely to be sidelined for up to a month after tearing his hamstring soon after scoring his team’s fifth goal of the night at Camp Nou – subsequently meaning that he will miss out on France’s opening Euro 2020 qualifiers against Moldova and Iceland.


Valverde said to reporters ahead of his side’s La Liga clash against Real Betis on Sunday (as quoted by ?Goal): “He’s injured, it was a decisive game and, although he had a niggle, we thought it was important to play him.

“He played and had a little problem. We hope he’s back in three weeks. We took a risk and now we’ve lost him for three or four weeks. The player was feeling great, he didn’t think he had a problem and thought he could play perfectly.

“We knew he had a slight problem because of how he finished [training] the day before, but it didn’t seem to be something to stop him playing. I felt it was a good idea to put him on. Had the scoreline been different I may have made a different decision. You never know what’s going to happen.

Ousmane Dembele

“The doctors do their job, the player does his and the coach makes the decisions. I knew there was an element of risk, as I’d spoken to the doctors. That’s their job and I made my decision because it could have been a decisive game. We had to take a certain amount of risk.”

Sunday’s match at Benito Villamarin could prove a vital step in ?Barca’s title defence, with victory against Betis opening the gap to second place ?Atletico Madrid to 10 points, following Los Rojiblancos’ shock 2-0 defeat away to Athletic at San Mames on Saturday.

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Barcelona Cool Interest in Lyon’s Ferland Mendy After Poor Champions League Last 16 Showing

?Barcelona are reportedly losing interest in Ferland Mendy following the left back’s poor showing against the Catalans in the Champions League last 16.

The La Liga giants have been admirers of the full back for quite some time now and reports had strongly linked them with a move for Mendy in the summer, meaning Barcelona’s last 16 clash against Lyon acted almost as an audition for the Frenchman with his potential new suitors.

Unfortunately for the left back, he didn’t live up to the expectations surrounding him. After a fairly uneventful first leg in the south of France, Lyon were humiliated at the hands of Lionel Messi and co. losing 5-1 at the Nou Camp with the defence leaking three goals in the space of eight minutes to seal the tie for Barcelona.

Lionel Messi,Ferland Mendy

Mendy himself was substituted with just over 10 minutes remaining after what was a lacklustre performance, and was forced to watch the rest of the game from the dugout as he and his Lyon side were dumped out of the competition.

Now according to ?Mundo Deportivo, Barcelona officials have cooled their interest in Mendy after his poor performances in the Champions League – and they look set to turn their attentions elsewhere.

They still intend to a sign another full-back to compete with Jordi Alba, who recently signed a new long-term deal with the club, but spending big is not necessarily a priority – particularly on Mendy, given his inconsistent showings.

Gerard Pique,Ferland Mendy

There’s still time for Mendy to redeem himself as he looks to finish what has already been a solid Ligue 1 campaign on a high note, with Lyon looking to chase down Lille who currently occupy second place in the league standings.

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The Stat That Blows Away the Myth Lionel Messi Fails to Deliver Against English Sides in the UCL

?It’s one of those old adages that Barcelona superstar and five-time Ballon d’Or winner Lionel Messi fails to shine against the defensive grit and backs to the wall defending of Premier League sides.

He can’t hack it. Can he really do it on a cold and rainy night at Stoke? The questions and statements have been long and tiresome, and one of those ancient myths passed down from generation to generation, losing substance as it goes along.

Lionel Messi

The fact is, after his exploits against Tottenham in the group stages of the Champions League this season, ?Messi has scored 22 goals against English clubs; more than any other player in the competition.

The Argentine was particularly sublime at Wembley against Spurs, where he effectively single-handedly inspired Barcelona to a victory. Who can even forget the numerous times he tormented Arsene Wenger and Arsenal in the last 16 of the competition earlier this decade.  

The bigger the occasion, the bigger the performance, and with the Catalan giants being drawn against ?Manchester United in the quarter-finals of the competition this year, Messi will have fond memories of playing against the Red Devils.

The 31-year-old has two goals against United in the Champions League, and to back up the point mentioned earlier, both were scored in the showpiece finale.

Almost a decade ago, Messi got the better of long-time rival Cristiano Ronaldo to score a stunning looping header to cap off a 2-0 triumph in Rome, and then in a vintage display at Wembley in the 2011 final, inspired ?Barcelona to another Champions League triumph over the heartbroken Red Devils.

Barcelona's Lionel Messi (R) celebrates

Both times the pressure was on. Both times the little Argentine stepped up. When the Catalan giants take to the field once again against United in the last eight of the Champions League, Lionel Messi will once again relish being at the heart of ending an English side’s dreams in the competition.

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