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Barcelona manager Ernesto Valverde has talked down speculation his side are close to signing Atletico Madrid striker Antoine Griezmann after Luis Suarez appeared to suggest a deal is already over the line.
Valverde referred to comments made by Suarez in the buildup to Sunday’s El Clasico against Real Madrid, complimenting Atleti’s frontman but dismissing the notion a move is complete just yet, per Football Espana:
“I don’t know if Suarez knows something I don’t. I’m proud that we’ve signed players of [Griezmann’s] quality. He’s a player who gives a lot. He’s been playing at a very high level for many years, always fighting.
“I have no doubt that he [Suarez] was speaking figuratively. We’re all careful with the things we say, and the same applies for our rivals. We’ve been linked with players who belong to other clubs throughout the season.
“[The Press] ask you about them so many times that sometimes you respond in one way and then in another.”
Valverde said Griezmann would be “welcome here [the Camp Nou]” but remained ambiguous on the Frenchman’s chances of joining as he added: “He’d be welcome here, not because he’d come to take someone’s place but rather because he would with the ambition of wanting to win trophies.”
Football Espana quoted Suarez, who appeared almost concrete when referring to potential team-mate Griezmann in a recent interview with Uruguayan station Radio Rincon (via Mundo Deportivo):
Luis Suarez states Antoine Griezmann is joining #FCBarcelona. “It is exciting that we are bringing in players with Antoine’s quality…he will not be taking anyone’s place but he will join to win important trophies with the world’s best team.” #Atleti https://t.co/nGIzysjIQ6 https://t.co/n8A5A596hC
The expectation is that Griezmann would leave Atletico at the end of this season, despite extending his contract last summer to help the club when their transfer ban was in effect, as reported by the Telegraph.
The club have since re-signed Diego Costa from Chelsea and will be better equipped to deal with his departure in 2018, although Griezmann illustrated his class in Thursday’s UEFA Europa League win over Arsenal, per Squawka:
Squawka Football @Squawka
Antoine Griezmann’s game by numbers vs. Arsenal: 100% take-ons completed 75 touches 4 take-ons 3 shots 2 aerial duels won 2 chances created 2 interceptions 1 assist Did whatever he wanted to. https://t.co/rwb6L659FG
Manchester United once looked like favourites to land the France forward, if not last summer then this, but a distant run to second in the Premier League while Barca romped to a domestic double has seen the Red Devils fall behind.
Suarez’s apparent assertion that he’d soon find himself in the same squad as Griezmann could be a sign the Uruguayan has blurted out inside information or he could just be buying into rumours as much as anyone else.
There is a question as to how Griezmann would expect to fit in an attack that already houses striker Suarez and support stars Lionel Messi, Philippe Coutinho and Ousmane Dembele.
Atleti are on course to finish above Real Madrid but can no longer catch champions Barca, and Los Rojiblancos boss Diego Simeone was vague when responding to a question on whether he could keep hold of Griezmann, via Goal:
For all the tactical quandaries it may bring, Barcelona would surely welcome the dilemma of trying to fit the Atletico frontman into their front line this summer, certainly based on Valverde’s most recent comments.
Coutinho’s acquisition in January helped make up for the loss of a certain Brazil compatriot to Paris Saint-Germain last summer, but adding Griezmann could make this Barca attack superior even to the pre-Neymar-exit edition.