MADRID, Spain, Jun 14 – French striker Antoine Griezmann announced on Thursday he was staying put at Atletico Madrid in an eagerly awaited decision that ends intense speculation of a possible move to Barcelona.
“I’ve decided to stay,” Griezmann told a Spanish pay per view channel 48 hours before he turns out for France in their World Cup opener.
The 27-year-old was heavily wooed by Barcelona but in the end he has elected to prolong his four year stay at the Spanish capital side.
Last month he scored twice in Atletico’s 3-0 win over Marseille in the Europa League final.
It was Griezmann’s first major title with Atletico after being in the side that lost on penalties to Real Madrid in the Champions League final in 2016, having also lost to Real two years earlier.
He also lost the European Championship final with France that same summer.
“I want to win the Champions League…it wasn’t hard luck, it was that we were missing something,” he reflected.
His loyalty to Atletico has been rewarded with an increase in salary to 20 million euros a year, according to reports in the Spanish media, making him the best paid player in the club’s history.
For Barcelona, his decision to stay in Madrid will be hard to take, a year after the loss of Neymar to Paris Saint-Germain. The Catalan giants were all set to meet his 100 million euro buyout clause.
Among those at Barca who will be disappointed at his decision will be Lionel Messi who last week hailed the compact No.9 as “a great player”.
“Good players always have an understanding and he’s at an exceptional moment in his career,” Messi said of the player who ended the season with a 29-goal haul.
Griezmann has spent his whole career in Spain but had only previously won one Spanish Super Cup.
With his club future confirmed, Griezmann is now free to focus on the World Cup, with France opening against Australia in Kazan on Saturday.
Last month, Atletico chief executive Miguel Angel Gil Marin attacked Barcelona over their pursuit of Griezmann, saying he was “fed up” with the Catalan club’s attitude.
“Not once have we negotiated for Griezmann nor do we have any intention to do so,” he said.
“A few months ago, I personally expressed to Barcelona’s president that our player isn’t for sale nor are we going to sell him,” he continued.
“At the same time, I let him know that his inappropriate conduct was against the integrity of the competition.”
Marin added: “We’re fed up with Barcelona’s attitude.”