MADRID – French international Antoine Griezmann took part in Wednesday’s training session at the Atletico Madrid facilities in the capital suburbs barely 13 hours after announcing that this will be his last season with the Colchoneros.
Griezmann’s future lies elsewhere, but he belongs to Atletico until June 30, when the price an acquiring club has to pay to buy out his contract falls to 125 million euros ($140 million).
Atleti boosted the fee to 200 million euros ($224 million) last summer when Barcelona expressed interest in the Frenchman, who ultimately opted to remain with the capital team, a choice he announced in a television documentary, “La Decision.”
The Colchoneros will travel to Valencia on Saturday for the final match of the LaLiga season against Levante and are scheduled to play a friendly match in Israel on May 21.
Though Griezmann is expected to end up with Barcelona, he has not disclosed where he plans to play next season.
The day after meeting with coach Diego Simeone, club CEO Miguel Angel Gil Marin and Sporting Director Andrea Berta to tell them he was leaving, the 28-year-old forward arrived for practice around 10:25 am Wednesday.
Seated in the rear of a SUV driven by close friend and teammate Diego Godin, Griezmann attracted the attention of several television crews, though the dozens of Atleti fans who stand at the gate waiting for a glimpse of their heroes took no particular interest in the striker.
But he received a warm greeting from a French couple who were holding up a placard reading “From Italy only for you!!” and covered with photos of No. 7 in action for Atletico.
Practice got under way at 11.00 am and the cameras were practically glued to Griezmann during the opening 15 minutes of the session that are open to the media.
While a smiling Simeone chatted with Berta as the players warmed up, the only thing out of the ordinary was Griezmann’s demeanor, more serious than usual.
The coach did not field a starting 11 during the session, raising doubts about whether the Frenchman will play against Levante on Saturday. Before the big announcement, the answer would have been a definite yes, now it’s anyone’s guess.
Neither side will have anything o the line: Atletico has already nailed down second place in LaLiga for the second successive year and Levante has secured another season in the top flight.
Simeone, however, will have a challenge putting together a squad will eight of his 21 players unavailable.
Four players are sidelined by injury: Jose Maria Gimenez, Stefan Savic, Lucas Hernandez and Nikola Kalinic, while Diego Costa, Alvaro Morata and Saul Ñiguez are serving suspensions.
Nehuen Perez is on international duty with the Argentina U20 team.
On his way out of the facility at 1.44 pm behind the wheel of one of the club’s fleet of SUVs, Griezmann stopped for nearly 10 minutes to sign autographs for the group of roughly 50 supporters, who displayed nothing but affection toward the Frenchman.
Griezmann is the fifth highest goal scorer in Atletico’s storied history, with 133 goals in 256 matches, and has led the team in scoring in each of his five seasons with the Colchoneros.
The Frenchman, who is the 2018 FIFA World Cup champion with his national team, won three trophies with Atletico: the 2014 Spanish Super Cup, the 2017-18 UEFA Europa League and the 2018-19 UEFA European Super Cup.
Griezmann, who entered the Real Sociedad youth academy in 2005 and joined the first team in 2009, came to Atletico in the summer of 2014.
The former captain of Atletico, Gabi Fernandez, said Wednesday that the club has top-class players who will step up to assume the role of Griezmann after his departure.
“Koke, Gimenez, Saul are very important players who are going to assume that role,” Gabi told EFE in Qatar, where he plays for Al Sadd.
Griezmann became the third member of the capital squad to signal his departure from Atletico this season, following veteran defenders Juanfran Torres and team captain Godin.
On Tuesday, sources told EFE that Juanfran, who turned 34 on Jan. 9, declined the one-year contract extension the club offered him, opening the door for a new stage in his career.
Just a week earlier, Godin announced at a press conference that he will leave the Spanish club at the end of the season.
Gabi, 35, said he was certain that the Madrid side will get past the current situation because the “club comes before any player.”
“It is a personal decision that must be respected, we must thank him for everything he has done for the club and wish him luck in his new stage,” Gabi said of Griezmann.