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19th Nov 2018

Antoine Griezmann explains why he turned down the chance to join Barcelona

It's no secret that Antoine Griezmann has come close to signing for Barcelona on several occasions in recent years, and he's now explained why he didn't

Reuben Pinder

Surely, the aim of every footballer is to play with the best players in the world?

Antoine Griezmann has come close to joining Barcelona on more than one occasion in recent years. Barça’s admiration for him is no secret, and constant speculation of a move away from Atlético Madrid refused to simmer down until Griezmann himself put it to bed, via the medium of a teaser video on Twitter.

Inspired by NBA superstar LeBron James, Griezmann made Atléti fans wait and wait for an answer to the big question of whether he would stay or go, posting a video on social media that revealed everything except the answer.

This didn’t go down particularly well, but his decision to stay, announced in a follow-up video, did.

While Atléti fans rejoiced at the news, neutrals were somewhat confused by his loyalty. It came as a pleasant surprise, but it’s not the sort of thing we’re used to seeing from elite level footballers.

Surely, by moving to Barcelona, he would improve his chances of winning a LaLiga title and a Champions League? Surely it made sense for him to make the step up, regardless of how much he loves Atléti?

It’s still a question that gets asked a lot when you see Barcelona topping LaLiga and Atlético continuing to rely on Griezmann for a third place finish.

The World Cup winner has now explained his decision to stay, which goes beyond loving Atlético.

Griezmann has said that part of the reason he did not sign for Barcelona is because he did not want to be ‘Lionel Messi’s lieutenant’.

“Was it hard to refuse Barça? It was very difficult,” he told French TV station Canal+.

“You have Barça who wants you, who calls you, who sends messages.

“But then there is the club where you are, where you are an important player and where they build a project around you.

“[And] subconsciously, being Messi’s lieutenant may have played a part.

“But my team-mates and people at the club [Atleti] did everything, they came to talk to me, they increased my salary.

“They did everything to show that it was my home and that I shouldn’t leave. It was really complicated times, especially for my wife where I woke her up at 3am to talk about it!”

Neymar left Barcelona for similar reasons, and when analysing how Ernesto Valverde would have had to fit Griezmann into the team, he may have a point. Both Messi and Griezmann like to operate in similar areas, so they might have ended up stepping on each other’s toes.

But beyond tactics, it’s clear that Griezmann enjoys being the main star at Atlético. And fair enough.