Antoine Griezmann seals shock return to Atletico Madrid as Barcelona continue clear-out

French forward was one of Camp Nou club's highest earners but struggled to find the same form he displayed during first spell with Atletico

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Antoine Griezmann made a sensational return to Atletico Madrid late on transfer deadline day, bringing an end to an underwhelming two-year spell at Barcelona for the French forward.

Griezmann, 30, scored 133 goals during his first five-year spell at Atletico to become one of the leading players in La Liga and convincing Barcelona to spend €120 million ($141.7m) on his services.

However, the France international struggled to hit the same heights at the Camp Nou and has now returned to Atletico on a one-year loan deal with an option to extend by another year.

Barcelona confirmed his departure, saying Atletico "will pay the player's wages", adding that the deal includes a compulsory permanent transfer clause when his loan finishes. Neither club disclosed the obligation-to-buy fee but it was reportedly set at €40m.

"Welcome back, Griezmann!" Atletico wrote on its website.

Barcelona have been struggling financially and had to allow six-time Ballon d'Or winner Lionel Messi to leave for Paris Saint-Germain last month. Griezmann was one of their highest earners since signing in 2019.

"FC Barcelona would like to thank Antoine Griezmann for his commitment and dedication and wishes him all the best for the future," the club said in a statement.

Griezmann joins Luis Suarez, who left Barca for Atletico 12 months ago, at the reigning La Liga champions.

Barcelona signed Sevilla's Dutch striker Luuk de Jong as Griezmann's replacement on a season-long loan deal with the option of a permanent transfer.

Griezmann's only major trophy with Atletico was the 2018 Europa League, having signed for Diego Simeone's side from Real Sociedad shortly after their surprise 2014 league title triumph. He won the Copa del Rey with Barca last season, scoring the opening goal in the final against Athletic Bilbao.

But Griezmann's stay at the Camp Nou was largely disappointing, with the 2018 World Cup winner netting just 22 times in 74 league matches for the Catalan giants.

Griezmann's exit was not expected, though, after he had started Barcelona's first three games of the new season.

The move is just the latest big-name transfer of the summer, after Messi's switch and Cristiano Ronaldo's return to Manchester United from Juventus.

But Kylian Mbappe's widely expected dream move to Real Madrid from PSG failed to materialise on Tuesday.

Griezmann, who finalised his transfer while on international duty preparing for France's upcoming World Cup qualifiers, was part of a clear-out by Barca on deadline day.

They also allowed defender Emerson Royal to leave for Tottenham and teenage midfielder Ilaix Moriba joined RB Leipzig.

Earlier this month, Barca president Joan Laporta revealed that Barcelona's debts stand at €1.35 billion and that their wage bill is at least 25 per cent higher than their competitors at €617m.

The five-time European champions have not won the Champions League since 2015, when they were inspired by a front three of Messi, Neymar and Suarez, and failed to get past the quarter-finals in either of Griezmann's two campaigns.

Barca were thumped 8-2 in the last eight by Bayern Munich in 2020 before a 4-1 first-leg loss at home to PSG earlier this year as they went out 5-2 on aggregate in the last 16.

They had to settle for second in La Liga, five points behind champions Real Madrid, in Griezmann's first season before stumbling to a third-placed finish last term.

Griezmann has scored 38 goals in 95 appearances for France, including once at Euro 2020 as the world champions were dumped out in the last 16 by Switzerland.

Updated: September 01, 2021, 4:31 AM