Football

Make history with us, Griezmann

Atletico CEO and players hope the French star, who is expected to join Barca, will stay after leading them to Europa League victory

Atletico Madrid got their hands on the Europa League trophy yesterday morning (Singapore time), but can only pray that their prized asset on the field, Antoine Griezmann, won't slip away from their grasp.

The 27-year-old Frenchman, who scored a double in their 3-0 win over Marseille in the Lyon final, is widely expected to join La Liga rivals Barcelona at the end of the season.

Atletico chief executive Miguel Angel Gil Marin told Spanish radio station Cadena SER that he believes the future is bright for their talisman if he chooses to stay.

Said Marin: "It will depend on his feelings more than anything else. If he wants to make history at Atletico Madrid where everything revolves around him, or go to a club where he will never enter history.

"If he decides that he does not want to continue with us, we have to respect his decision.

"I am not optimistic or pessimistic. I do not know what will happen, it is not a decision for him to say after the final."

Atletico captain Gabi Fernandez said they have tried to convince Griezmann to stay and he hopes the trophy helps.

"We already told him a couple of things... He can't leave us," said Gabi, who scored the third goal against Marseille.

"Let's hope today's performance convinces him to stay with us."

Griezmann - brought up in Macon, just 70km from Lyon - scored once in each half, his lethal finishes coming either side of Marseille losing Dimitri Payet to injury, the French team's captain coming off in tears.

Atletico coach Diego Simeone, who praised Griezmann for being decisive in the most important moment in the game, said now that they are also in the Uefa Super Cup, they can be considered on a par with the best European clubs.

Said Simeone: "I hope that he is happy to play for us. He's played three finals with us and won two. Now we are in the Uefa Super Cup, so he could play four finals with us.

"So, on a sporting level, we aren't so far from the clubs that have more power than us."

Griezmann has been Atletico's leading scorer in each season since he joined from Real Sociedad for 25 million euros (S$40m) in 2014.

LEAP IN QUALITY

His double took him to 29 goals in all competitions this campaign.

Griezmann had hogged most of the attention before the final amid speculation he is set to end his four-year stay at Atletico to move to 25-time Spanish champions Barca when his buy-out clause drops to 100m euros, reported Reuters.

"It's a decision that he will have to come to. Whatever he decides, I'll be happy because he has given us his life," Simeone said.

"If he stays, I'll be delighted and if he leaves, I'll be grateful for everything he's done for us.

"He's given us a lot, he gave us a leap in quality as a team. If he stays, we'll keep growing because we are destined to keep growing."

Griezmann, who was named the Man of the Match, declined to discuss his future.

"Now is not the moment to talk about it. I just want to enjoy myself after my performance, after winning a trophy and I want to celebrate with the fans," Griezmann said.

"Simeone has taught me a lot, he made me become a better player and I hope I can keep improving every year, in every game. I owe a lot to Simeone and my teammates."

Football