Antoine Griezmann did not expect his first year in Barcelona to have gone this way. Last weekend, he celebrated 12 months at the club, but was injured in the win over Valladolid, barring him from Sunday’s last game against Alaves.
The title has already been lost and he has already seen the coach who originally wanted him signed, Ernesto Valverde. Next week, his second Barcelona manager, Quique Setien, may also bite into the dust – Barcelona is still seriously considering temporarily putting B-team coach Francisco Javier García Pimienta in charge.
It was a difficult first year, chaotic, sometimes lonely and hitherto trophile. But on Friday, there was good news when he came through a specially designed training session. There is optimism that he will be fit to meet Napoli in the Champions League on August 8.
Antoine Griezmann’s debut season in Barcelona was tough, chaotic and trophy-free
The £ 108m man struggles to settle and partner with Barca star Lionel Messi
There is also the option to wear his favorite shirt No. 7 next season. And his brilliant goal against Villarreal at the beginning of the month was a taste of how he could still manage in Barcelona if he finally made it with Lionel Messi.
That purpose was important not only because he made contact with Messi. It also tied him with Neymar for goals in his first season with Barcelona.
In the 2013-14 campaign, Neymar scored 15 times in what was his first year with the club. Griezmann can now say that he did the same. He also has 14 more goals than Eden Hazard in his first season for Real Madrid.
According to statistics, it was nowhere near as bad as some critics wanted to discern.
However, the numbers suggest that Griezmann’s first season was not as bad as previously thought
His excellent chip against Villarreal drew him to Neymar for goals in the first season
The Frenchman’s strike was assisted by Messi, who greeted him festively with a warm hug
But it is also true that Griezmann has not reached the heights he reached at Atletico Madrid.
He scored 21 goals in his last season under Diego Simeone, 29, 26 and 32 in the three previous campaigns. He knows he can do better in Barca.
Taking back the seven shirt may seem like a frivolity, but the psychological effect should not be underestimated. Coutinho had it last year and it was left unused when loaned to Bayern Munich.
Griezmann should feel like the special player Barcelona thought he was when they paid £ 108 million for him last year. Taking back the number he wore to become world champion in France and that he wore for Atletico Madrid will help him with that.
Villarreal’s goal was a reminder of its class. It seemed to be a turning point for him. There had been a long night of soul searching after being knocked out of the Barcelona home game with Athletic Bilbao in the 65th minute three games earlier.
Neymar was a key figure in Barcelona and successfully joined Messi and Luis Suarez
And Griezmann can do the same, with Suarez taking on a mentoring role for his new teammate
He was on the bench against Celta Vigo in the next game and things were going to get worse when he came on because he was blamed for the tying run.
It doesn’t matter that the wall was set up badly, it was at the end of it and it jumped when the ball rolled low around it and past Marc Andre ter Stegen.
Coach Setien did not protect him after the game and said the team lost because “someone jumped into the wall.”
In the next game, he was back on the bench, but this time it was against his former club Atletico Madrid and was almost punished in injury time.
But from that darkest hour that dawn of joining Messi came against Villarreal.
Next season could be a fresh start for the striker with Quique Setien about to leave the club
Griezmann is also likely to get his favorite number 7 shirt, a big boost for the French star
Being absent from the horrible show against Osasuna in midweek when the competition was finally handed in didn’t hurt him.
It will have reminded everyone that if they want to win the Champions League next month, they have to get the best out of their French attacker.
Luis Suarez has been Griezmann’s greatest ally so far. The Uruguayan has done his best to care for Griezmann, who at Atletico had a close relationship with Suarez’s international teammate Diego Godin.
Messi is more reserved. He has a close friendship with Suarez and he gets along well with Arturo Vidal, so there is little effort in making deep connections with anyone else.
Griezmann can still make a big impact on Barcelona’s Champions League hopes this season
When Griezmann returned to full squad training after quarantine and discovered that he was in a different training group than Messi and Suarez, his map appeared to be marked. Messi took Ansu Fati under his wing and seemed to want the 17-year-old third of the attacking puzzle.
But the combination of Messi and Griezmann against Villarreal remains a promise of the future.
It may not have been the start of a beautiful friendship, but it may have been the moment when Messi realizes he needs Griezmann; maybe not as much as Griezmann needs him. But he still needs it.
“If we play this way, we will not beat Napoli,” Messi said to Osasuna in the middle of the week after the defeat.
If the king of the club and the ‘principito’ can make it, they have a much better chance of reaching the quarterfinals.