For the past 7 years, world football and Ballon D’Or awards have been dominated by, well, you know who. But, as the Messi and Ronaldo era begins to draw to a close, it is time for a new crop of outstanding talents to take the reigns. This series will be analysing the potential new world beaters, the players who, in four or five years time, could be the real deal.
We will begin with 24 year-old Frenchman Antoine Griezmann. Griezmann started his career at Spanish side Real Sociedad in 2009 after spending 4 years in their youth academy, and immediately became a regular starter in the left wing position. In his first professional season, he scored 6 goals in 40 appearances including a goal against Huesca in his first start. His performances helped Real Sociedad gain promotion to Spain’s top division in 2010.
The following season in the top flight, having turned down interest from Arsenal, Manchester United and Lyon, Griezmann, now under a contract until 2015, had another good season in which he scored 7 goals in in 39 games. This was when people first started to take notice of the young talent, as he displayed skill, ability, and from a young age, he was scoring quite a few goals.
After three more impressive years for the Basque team which included the goal that secured qualification for the Champions League and a stunning overhead kick against the club he supports Lyon, Griezmann attracted interest from Atletico Madrid, who were willing to pay the 30million euro release clause in his contract. It was then that he decided that it was time to move onto a bigger club and challenge for silverware, as Atletico had just beaten all the odds and won La Liga and become just seconds away from winning the Champions League.
In his first season with Atletico, Griezmann delighted the Madrid faithful with 25 goals in 54 games along with some dazzling performances, and after the recent success of forwards Radamel Falcao and Diego Costa at the club, it looked to be that he was overshadowing fellow attackers Fernando Torres and Mario Mandzukic and becoming a real star.
This season Griezmann has continued his rich vein of form, and it’s looking like this so called ‘form’ is more likely to be permanent class. With this summer’s Euro 2016 in his home country of France, he will have the chance to produce his magic on an even bigger stage and show the world what he is capable of.
However, it could be possible that if he, ironically, performs TOO well in this summer’s tournament, he could be snapped up by local rivals Real Madrid, as club president Florentino Perez seems to have a habit of spending record fees on ‘the next big thing’. Surely, looking at the history if these types of players moving to Real, it would be a huge gamble, as it seems that Real Madrid at times look like an unbalanced team of superstars that put the manager under pressure to play them all and therefore not play his favoured system, and therefore, at times, it has cost Real trophies. Of course, some of these signings have been successful, like Ronaldo and James, but meanwhile, some of them, not so successful, like Kaka or depending on opinion, Gareth Bale. If he does decide to go there, Griezmann will hope to be in the bracket of the former, rather than the latter.
Some suggestions have been made that a move to the Premier League could be on, and the most likely club for that would be Arsenal, with there lack of firepower up front. The move could be increasingly likely if Arsenal win the league this season, but it still doesn’t seem all that likely that move could be on.
What does seem to be a possibility would be a move to his home country, and PSG or Lyon would be candidates, PSG because they want to become a major force in world football and conquer Europe, Lyon because they want to shift PSG off their throne in domestic French football, and also because Lyon is the team that he supports.
So, Antoine Griezmann. 24 years young, a bright talent with a bright future – but we will see if success beckons.