If Antoine Griezmann proves to be the standout participant in this week’s Spanish Super Cup semifinals and showpiece closing, none of us can declare we weren’t given ahead discover. And solely partially due to the France worldwide’s splurge of assists and objectives in his previous two matches, which appear to have rescued his season and, maybe, even his future at Barcelona.
Yes, it is true: these two assists for Lionel Messi rolled off Griezmann’s boot as if he’d transplanted some Luis Suarez DNA there, as if Barcelona’s No. 10 and No. 7 had been symbiotic footballing siblings — not the 2 proud winners who, for many months, have seemed as in the event that they’d actually been cursed by no means to fairly perceive one another.
The man from Macon additionally conjured up one of many excellent objectives of his total profession at Granada on Saturday, darting into the penalty space, taking Ousmane Dembele‘s neat dink move on his left instep after which, with much less angle than a sand salesman in the Sahara, smashing the ball right into a minuscule hole between Rui Silva and his right-hand submit. It was obscene — in a great way.
Nevertheless, there have been even larger warnings that Griezmann will most likely put his outdated membership, Real Sociedad, to the sword on Wednesday in Cordoba (2:50 p.m. ET, stream live on ESPN+) then win Barcelona the Super Cup closing in Seville towards both Real Madrid or Athletic Bilbao. Bear with me, I’ll clarify.
You see, Griezmann loves semifinals — like Paul McCartney fairly likes a tinkle on the piano, Hollywood likes a sequel and Popeye was a bit keen on spinach. Griezmann has an enormous behavior of both producing slightly little bit of solo sweetness or inspiring his group to a victory at any time when a semi (and infrequently a closing) comes alongside.
Frankly, we most likely ought to have anticipated that the previous couple of days would produce indicators of him warming up for one thing particular. Allow me to elaborate.
Griezmann has performed in, and/or received, the semifinals of the European Under-19 Championship, the Under-20 World Cup, the European Championship, the World Cup, the Champions League, the Europa League, the Copa del Rey and the Spanish Super Cup. And the actual fact is that he virtually all the time produces. His report is beautiful. At skilled stage it begins with knocking Croatia out of the U19 Euro semifinal (then profitable the ultimate towards Spain) in 2010 and ends with scoring in Barcelona’s 3-2 Super Cup semifinal defeat to Atletico Madrid in Saudi Arabia this time final 12 months.
In between, Griezmann has: tucked away each objectives in a 2-0 win over Germany in the Euro 2016 semifinal; arrange Sam Umtiti with the winner in the 2018 World Cup semifinal victory over Belgium; offered an help to Diego Costa in order that Atleti knocked Arsenal out of the 2018 Europa League semifinal (Griezmann scored two in a man-of-the-match closing win); scored the decisive away purpose in Munich that meant Diego Simeone’s Atleti, not Pep Guardiola’s Bayern Munich, went by means of to play Madrid in the 2016 Champions League closing; scored in the finally futile 2-1 win over Madrid in the 2017 Champions League semifinal; cancelled out Messi’s opener in the 1-1 draw Real Sociedad earned in the 2014 Copa del Rey semifinal towards Barca; scored for Atleti in the 2-1 residence defeat to Barcelona in the 2017 Copa del Rey semifinal and given an help to Kevin Gameiro in the away leg every week later (1-1).
And when it comes to the blue-ribbon matches (regardless of it nonetheless being an especially sore topic for him that he missed a penalty in regular time towards Madrid throughout that 2016 Champions League closing, he nonetheless slotted his shootout penalty that roller-coaster night time), he scored in the 2018 World Cup closing defeat of Croatia, received that brace in the 2018 Europa League closing and produced the help from which Mario Mandzukic received Atleti the 2014 Spanish Super Cup towards rivals Real.
These are world-class stats that transcend underlining his expertise and starvation, they scream big-match nerve.
So, given this earlier immunity to stress, what they heck has been improper with him, or his atmosphere, since he moved from Atletico to Barcelona in 2019? A central level is that Griezmann’s been chasing the golden picture of a non-existent Eldorado — pursuing one thing at Camp Nou that he perceived from a distance But the truth has not solely confirmed to be one thing radically totally different, it is taken him an enormous quantity of time to return to phrases with a misplaced dream.
When I met and interviewed him midway by means of his first season at Barcelona, he raised a few very influential topics. First, that he anticipated to take an extended time to settle in, one thing he wasn’t ashamed to say.
“I’m really shy and don’t usually talk to the others because of my shyness,” he stated. “I’m not the sort who’s going to start up a conversation because I’m too timid. That will only improve over time. I noticed a change in my second year at Atleti. I said, ‘This is the player I want to be!’
“When I play soccer, when I’m on the pitch, I do what’s pure for me. I do not assume lots. For instance, if I’m not doing nicely or I’m unhappy in my non-public life, it displays on the pitch.”
Had he been more confrontational, more ruthless, more of a schemer and plotter rather than a guy who feeds off sheer hard work and good vibes, then adapting to the form he’s shown these past couple of gams would have been more rapid.
In that interview, he also made clear his belief that he was coming to try to graduate in the highly scientific, geometrically challenging football skills that he’d both admired, and suffered, while playing against Barcelona in the days of Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Neymar, David Villa, Dani Alves and peak Messi and Sergio Busquets. That Eldorado I discussed.
“I did not go away Atleti to win the Champions League or to elevate extra trophies,” Griezmann said. “I got here to Barcelona to study a brand new fashion of play, a brand new philosophy. It was all about studying at a membership that conceives soccer in a unique method.”
Sadly for him, by the time he reached Camp Nou, that era was gone.
Not only was the squad itself in notable decline, the very concept of positional-possession football, the absolutely fine-tuned, hard-to-play-against, brutal-to-learn Guardiola-Cruyff ideal had been abandoned. Griezmann was like an ultra-eager freshman looking to learn nuclear physics from a school that had just moved on to brick laying and plastering.
Privately, he’s worked hard on repaying Barcelona for their faith in him, sometimes against a background of inept coaching — Quique Setien and his staff were hopelessly adrift of the necessary standards while in charge — sometimes against a backdrop of his confidence feeling totally shattered.
Ale Moreno asks the question after Barcelona’s exceptional win: Why doesn’t this happen more often for Barca?
Griezmann carries the terrible burden of being one of football’s nice guys. Maybe a little Peter Pan in some of his outlooks, possibly too timid, too shy for a 29-year-old, but unquestionably bursting with ability, genuinely a decent man and someone who’s been frantically casting about for answers as to A) how to reproduce his own best form and B) how best to make his partnership with the notoriously demanding, notoriously saturnine Messi thrive.
So, with respect to Sir Alex Ferguson, who coined the phrase “Football, bloody hell,” here Griezmann is again. Playing in a 4-3-3 formation that simply did not suit him when he first joined, spending decent chunks of the past two games wide on the left (ditto), but suddenly looking not only as if he can play at his best level but as if he can be immensely valuable to Ronald Koeman’s Barca because of his simply immense work ethic.
The masking work, the tackling, the urgent, the jockeying of opponents, the defensive diligence that he had pounded into him at Atleti had been all like salt in a uncooked wound when different issues, headline issues, weren’t clicking. The worth of every selfless, decided piece of ancillary work to assist the group in months gone was corrosively undermined by the thought that: “Where are the goals and assists for which you were bought?” And now? Now that Griezmann’s presence up entrance for Barcelona appears symbiotic with Jordi Alba, seamless with Dembele, joyful with Messi and shimmering with self esteem when he is close to the purpose, these further parts of his sport elevate him to one thing very near the €120 million-valued world champion the Camp Nou membership thought they had been shopping for.
So, it is semifinal week for Griezmann. Again.
He’s received an honest report of scoring towards his ex-club, however nobody in Koeman’s group can presumably be in any doubt that in the event that they play like they’ve in lengthy spells over previous months, La Real have the capability to knock them out and curtail this groovy resurrection story by Wednesday night time.
As for the opposite two rivals, ought to Griezmann produce and progress, nicely he is fairly loved enjoying Athletic and Madrid over time. Los Leones and Los Blancos are two of the three rivals towards whom he is pitted himself most frequently, scoring 16 objectives in 20 wins, 20 defeats and 13 attracts towards the pair of them.
So, my suggestion is that, by Sunday night time in Seville’s Cartuja Stadium, Griezmann may nicely have been a power in lifting his first trophy for Barcelona — it is his calling card. That stated, we’ve two enthralling semifinals, a doable upset all-Basque closing, a doable Clasico closing or the primary rematch of a Barcelona facet towards a Marcelino-coached group because the Asturian’s vibrant Valencia blew the Blaugrana away in the 2019 Copa del Rey closing.
This guarantees to be a particular week of Spanish soccer. Don’t, on any account, miss it.