Diego Forlan: Signing Antoine Griezmann would cost Manchester United €100m – but he would be worth it

The French forward’s buyout clause at Atletico Madrid is €100 million (Dh399m), a vast amount, but is the sum unrealistic given how much Pogba cost and how much money there is at the biggest English clubs?

Antoine Griezmann of Atletico Madrid looks on during the Uefa Champions League quarter-final second leg against Leicester City at The King Power Stadium on April 18, 2017 in Leicester, United Kingdom.  Richard Heathcote / Getty Images
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Diego Forlan writes a weekly column for The National, appearing each Friday. The former Manchester United, Inter Milan and Atletico Madrid striker has been the top scorer in Europe twice and won the Golden Boot at the 2010 World Cup. Forlan's column is written with the assistance of European football correspondent Andy Mitten.

Though he is a very different type of player, Antoine Griezmann is this year’s Paul Pogba, the exceptionally good young French player linked with a move to one of the best clubs in the world. Pogba joined Manchester United in a world record move, Griezmann could do the same.

Like Pogba, Griezmann is doing very well for his club and country and no matter how much he denies the speculation about a move to Old Trafford, the rumours do not go away. The biggest clubs tend to get what they want.

I certainly don’t see Griezmann as a player who will be at Atletico Madrid for many years, certainly not beyond two or three. Diego Simeone staying could be a good reason for him to remain. Simeone is the manager that bought him, who gives him confidence. Simeone leaving could be a big blow for the club, but as older players such as Gabi retire or move on it is also important for Atletico to keep their best talents like Griezmann if they want to stay at their current level which is their highest ever.


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It is now completely normal for Atletico to be in the semi-finals of the Uefa Champions League, one of the best four clubs in the best competition in the world. And that’s with a relatively modest budget.

I really rate Griezmann highly. He is fast, he scores, he can play anywhere across the front of the attack. He is only 26, on the cusp of his peak. He is not a classic No 9, but he can play the role. He has a good left foot, he can score from outside the box and in it. He takes set pieces and penalties. He can score magical goals, like when he went back to San Sebastian and chipped the Real Sociedad goalkeeper. He has a football intelligence which sees him make runs at the right time.

If he was 29 or 30 I could see him staying at Atletico. He is happy and at a great club who are about to move to a big new stadium. Madrid is a good place for a footballer; I speak from experience. His sale could earn Atletico a fortune, but they don’t need the money any more like they used to.

Griezmann’s buyout clause is €100 million (Dh399m), a vast amount, but is the sum unrealistic given how much Pogba cost and how much money there is at the biggest English clubs?

Or he can become the main man at Atletico, their best paid player on money close to what the likes of United can pay. Atletico’s success in Europe helps that, but they are still a long way behind the biggest clubs financially.

I am sure those coaches who passed up on signing a young Griezmann because he was too small have long regretted their decision. It is a fault of English football, and obviously French football, that players are passed over because they are too small when they are teenagers, but just look at the best players in the word. Lionel Messi is no giant and nor were some of his Barcelona teammates including Xavi or Andres Iniesta. Juan Mata, David Silva and Sergio Aguero are among the best of their era. None of them are tall, but they are still strong and fast. Diego Maradona wasn’t too bad either, was he?

Griezmann was determined to succeed and made the move to Spain when he was only 14 to join Real Sociedad, where being small need not be the obstacle that it can be in northern Europe. He proved the doubters wrong by rising through the youth teams – and also being a key player as La Real rose from the second division, where he made his debut in 2009/10, to the Champions League by 2013/14.

Timing is so important in football and while he contributed to Sociedad’s rise, he was fortunate in the timing of it too. There are plenty of good players who find themselves in struggling teams.

His move to Atletico in 2014 for €30 million was perfect for Griezmann, a step up to one of the biggest and best teams in Spain, one playing at a higher level under Simeone than some of the more richer clubs. He cost them a lot of money and struggled at first to adjust, but ended the season with 25 goals, a fantastic tally at any club, especially for a player who often plays in a wide position. He was selected in the Uefa Team of the Year in attack alongside Cristiano Ronaldo and Messi.

He was even better last season, scoring 32 times including seven in the Champions League as Atletico reached a second final in three years. Playing against teams like Bayern Munich and standing out, he showed he is a big-match player.

He has scored the winning goal away at Real Madrid – something I came close to achieving! He scored both goals against Barcelona to knock them out of the Champions League. He scored the decisive goal in Munich in the Champions League semi-final last season.

Griezmann is a quality finisher and there are few of those around, players who can get those key goals to win the biggest games. There is another reason why Griezmann is so attractive to the richest clubs and that is his consistency. He is hardly ever injured and had played between 34 and 39 league games in all seven of his seasons as a professional.

He also has high energy levels and, like Pogba, plays almost every minute of every game. He is an attacker who works hard to defend and while he is already at a great club, he would be a great player for a club like United. But they will have to pay a lot of money for him. An awful lot. But I think he would be worth it.

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