Why Man United should think twice about signing Antoine Griezmann
Judging by widespread reports over the last six months, it seems increasingly likely that Manchester United will launch a bid to sign Antoine Griezmann from Atletico Madrid this summer. The 25-year-old Frenchman has an £85 million release clause in his contract with los Conchoneros and the Red Devils are supposedly willing to fork out such a figure to secure their primary transfer target.
Griezmann’s qualities are unquestionable, and his form over the last two years puts him among the best players in the world. There are, however, reasons why signing the forward might not be the no-brainer it initially seems – most of which stem from doubts over whether he and Paul Pogba can both thrive in the same team.
Pogba is set to lose something this summer, anyway – and that's according to his own manager. “I think next summer will bring a few surprises at this level and probably Paul will lose his status as the world’s most expensive player, which will be a good thing,” Jose Mourinho said in a press conference earlier this month.
United have the financial might to pull off such a monumental deal and Griezmann is close friends with last summer’s world record purchase, Pogba
It was probably just a comment about the rapid inflation of football’s transfer market, but many United fans giddily believed that the Portuguese had dropped a cryptic hint that one of those “surprises” would be Griezmann’s arrival at Old Trafford.
There are plenty of reasons why supporters of the 20-time champions should be excited by the prospect of their club securing the player who came third in last year’s Ballon d’Or. With Wayne Rooney’s 12-and-a-half year stay in Manchester seemingly coming to an end, and 35-year-old Zlatan Ibrahimovic carrying the majority of the team’s goalscoring burden, the arrival of a genuinely world-class forward would be more than welcome.
There is also optimism that this transfer is a distinct possibility, too. United have the financial might to pull off such a monumental deal and Griezmann is close friends with last summer’s world record purchase, Pogba.
The former Real Sociedad star has also made no attempt to hide the fact that David Beckham was his idol growing up – it's why he wears the No.7 for Atleti and France. Following Memphis Depay’s departure to Lyon, that same squad number is currently vacant at Old Trafford should Griezmann wish to further align with the former England captain.
Second striker role
Although capable of leading the line either as a false nine or a more conventional centre-forward in a counter-attacking set-up, Griezmann is most comfortable as a second striker
But using Euro 2016 as evidence, there's reason to believe that Griezmann’s presence in the United side could come at Pogba’s expense.
Although he made his name as a pacey winger with an eye for a goal, Griezmann has consistently played centrally since joining Atletico in 2014, and Diego Simeone's decision to deploy him there has been vindicated by 74 goals in 142 apperances.
Although capable of leading the line either as a false nine or a more conventional centre-forward in a counter-attacking set-up, Griezmann is most comfortable as a second striker, dropping off the front line and linking with an orthodox No.9.
This season his partner in crime has been compatriot Kevin Gameiro. The pace and threat in behind posed by the former PSG and Sevilla man opens up space for Griezmann, who has found the net 17 times and registered eight assists this term.
Playing with a three-man midfield suited Pogba, who produced his best form for Juventus on the left of a central trio
Yet when France kicked off their Euros campaign on home soil against Romania last June, Didier Deschamps lined his team up in a 4-3-3 formation. This meant that, with Olivier Giroud as the targetman, there was no second striker position for Griezmann to slot into, and he instead had to play on the right wing, cutting infield onto his favoured left foot.
In theory, playing with a three-man midfield suited Pogba, who produced his best form for Juventus on the left of a central trio – as has also been the case since his Old Trafford return.
France laboured in their early fixtures, though, and, after dropping both Griezmann and Pogba for the second group game against Albania, Deschamps eventually switched to a lopsided 4-4-2. The new system allowed Griezmann to play off Giroud, with Moussa Sissoko on the right of midfield and Dimitri Payet in a slightly advanced position on the left.
Against Romania from the right, Griezmann completed just 14 passes, created no chances and hit the target with none of his three attempted shots. He was again ineffectual in a 4-3-3 for the final group game against Switzerland, with just one shot on target and no successful take-ons, although he did create three chances from open play.