Antoine Griezmann hits new low at Barcelona as Quique Setien admits bringing him on would have 'destabilised' team
French striker, without a La Liga goal since February 15, appeared only as a last-minute substitute in the 2-2 draw with former club Atletico on Tuesday
Barcelona forward Antoine Griezmann must have been relishing Tuesday's match with former club Atletico Madrid, but even with his side drawing 2-2 and needing a winner to rescue their ailing La Liga title bid, he was not brought on until the last minute.
A third draw in six matches further doomed Barca's bid to win a third successive title and means arch rivals Real Madrid can go four points clear at the top of the table with five games left if they beat Getafe on Thursday.
But after the match, the focus on Griezmann 's fall from grace since his €120 million (Dh486m) move from Atletico last year was even greater than the team's title bid.
The World Cup winning forward has not started in three of Barca's six games since returning to action, missing the crucial trips to Sevilla and Celta Vigo which also ended in draws.
But perhaps worst of all for him was manager Quique Setien's declaration that bringing on Griezmann earlier would not have helped his side.
"It's true that bringing him on for such little time is tough for a player of his level but the circumstances obliged me to do that. The other option was not to bring him on at all," said Setien.
"The players on the pitch were playing well and it wasn't easy to find a place for him without destabilising the team. I don't normally make late changes but I thought a player like him could win the game with one play."
Griezmann, who is Barca's second most expensive player of all time, has only scored one league goal since Setien became manager in January. He netted seven times under previous manager Ernesto Valverde.
"Tomorrow I'll speak with him. I won't apologise to him but I understand he might feel bad and I also feel bad for him because he's a great player and a great person," added Setien.
Griezmann's scant influence at Barca contrasts with the talismanic influence he had at Atletico, where he was leading scorer in each of his five seasons under Diego Simeone.
The Atletico manager's reaction to his former star man's cameo role said it all. "I have no words," he said.
Griezmann still appears to have the support of his teammates, though, with Barca defender Clement Lenglet this week saying the 29-year-old can still rediscover his best form.
"Antoine is well integrated in the dressing room, there really is no problem. On the pitch, he himself knows he can do better," Lenglet said to Le Parisien. "But we must not forget his statistics. He has still scored 14 goals and created several assists.
"For a first season, it's not bad. But, for Antoine, he is playing in a different style to what he was better used to at Atletico, and he is a player with whom we are very demanding.
"But I see him working hard in training, it can only get better. It's always the same when a Barca striker doesn't score for two games, that's he's in trouble. When he scores two goals, it looks like Super-Antoine is back."
Setien, meanwhile, is under pressure himself, with reports growing of a growing schism between Barca's players and the coaching staff.
But, despite Real on the brink of taking firm control of the title race, the former Real Betis coach insists he does not feel the axe is looming.
"I don't feel at all under threat," he said. "It's a shame. We're having more and more difficulties. Leaving these points behind means we're moving further away from the title. But we have to keep working."
Updated: July 1, 2020 04:03 PM