KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTS —- If Manchester United tell Antoine Griezmann they want him to spearhead their attack next season they will be knocking at an open door.
Griezmann, six-goal leading marksman as hosts France finished runners-up at Euro 2016 last summer, has made no secret of his desire to play for United whose Europa League victory last night shot them up into next season’s Champions League.
The Atletico Madrid striker sets it out in black and white in his newly-published autobiography* in France, in which he all but encloses a stamped addressed envelope for Ed Woodward, United executive vice-chairman, to send back a contract ready for signature.
Griezmann says that he could already have been playing in England.
After the 2014 World Cup finals, when he was ready to leave Real Sociedad, Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino wanted to make him one of the Argentinian’s first signings at White Hart Lane.
In the end Griezmann decided it made more sense to stay in Spain and thus opted to join Atletico where he is contracted until 2021.
Now in his book he says: “At the end of the season I will sit down calmly with the directors here, review their ambitions, their project, what they intend to do to improve the team. I will make my decision in consultation with them, after having heard what they have to say.
“There is no question of rushing a decision. It’s very possible that I will stay an Atletico player . . . Last year Paris Saint-Germain shown an interest. Eric [Olhats, Griezmann’s football adviser] had talked with their directors after the Euro but I did not want to move. Receiving different offers is part of a player’s life.”
One such earlier offer had come, says Griezmann, from Pep Guardiola when the current Manchester City boss was at Barcelona. However Griezmann, then a starter with Real Sociedad, did not fancy spending a year in Barcelona’s reserves “familiarising myself with their style of play.”
He continues: “My priority is not the salary but sporting ambitions and my relationship with the coach. If I am to move abroad then I would want to understand from the coach exactly how he would want to play me.”
Then he talks about speculation linking him with United.
Griezmann says: “Ever since January the the English press has been reporting that they were ready to spend €100m, my buyout clause. I was not going to spend time denying it. It’s always the same question. It’s so tiring.”
The 26-year-old continues that he is happy at Atletico with a top-class coach [Diego Simeone] and team-mates but adds: “I rule nothing out. It will depend on the end of the season. I’ve nothing against England, apart from the climate!”
He continues: “Manchester United are a possibility.Even if I like Paul Pogba very much, the fact that he is a Red Devil will not influence my decision.
“Eric has already had some informal exchanges, not me.
“If something firms up then I will talk with the coach or the director of sport . . . If we come to an agreement then it will be up to the clubs to arrange things between themselves. I just play football, I don’t fix the transfer price.”
Events over the past few weeks might suggest to Griezmann that the time is right for his dream move. A fading Atletico, unluckily beaten twice by Real in the Champions League finals in 2013 and 2015 were outclassed by their neighbours this season in ‘only’ the semi-finals.
As for United, last night was further evidence that Jose Mourinho’s own project is heading onwards and upwards.
If United and Mourinho have any doubts about a player who has scored 100 goals in the past eight seasons in Spain they would concern Griezmann’s slim build and hence ability to cope with the physicality of the Premier League.
In that case they would need look only to neighbours Manchester City: Sergio Aguero is barely much taller than Griezmann but has scored 122 league goals over six seasons including decisive contributions to two Premier League titles.
Aguero, like Griezmann, moved to Manchester from Atletico.
* Derriere le Sourire by Antoine Griezmann with Arnaud Ramsay (Robert Laffont, €19).