Atletico Madrid boss Diego Simeone pays tribute to departing Antoine Griezmann

Diego Simeone and Alvaro Morata insist Atletico Madrid should be thankful to Antoine Griezmann as he prepares to leave the club this summer.

Twelve months after protracted speculation ended with Griezmann opting to stay at the Wanda Metropolitano, the France forward has now informed the club he wishes to leave this summer after again being linked with Barcelona.

Coach Simeone said at a press conference ahead of Saturday’s game with Levante, reported by Marca: “First of all I am grateful for the footballer we have had.

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“I only have words of gratitude for Griezmann. As a person I love him very much.

“When you give everything like Antoine has given us, we are calm. We knew Griezmann’s departure was a possibility.”

“We had (Fernando) Torres, (Diego) Forlan, (Sergio) Aguero, (Radamel) Falcao, (Mario) Mandzukic, Griezmann… and we always competed in the same way, because this club’s structure and strength isn’t like it used to be.

“In the last 10 years, we’ve seen that the club is more important than any one of us.”

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Regarding potential targets to replace Griezmann, who has averaged a goal every two games for Atletico across LaLiga and the Champions League, Simeone joked he will look for: “Someone who scores 20 goals a season and costs very little.”

Alvaro Morata, Griezmann’s strike partner for the second half of this season after joining on an 18-month loan from Chelsea, also thanked the Frenchman for his efforts.

“I’m good, and the squad too,” Morata told Marca. “We wish he could have stayed, but he’s taken that decision.

“It’s a decision that we have to respect, we have to thank him for what he’s done for this club, which is a lot, and we respect his decision.”

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Paris St Germain will not be Griezmann’s destination after coach Thomas Tuchel admitted: “He could play for any team in the world. However, he is unrealistic for us.”

Rodri Hernandez is another who could be heading for the exit door, with the midfielder strongly linked with Manchester City, while out-of-contract defender Diego Godin is also leaving.

Simeone, who has been in charge of Atletico since 2011, insists the high-profile departures will have no bearing on his own future.

“I’m still excited about all this, I’m still staying,” he said.

Diego Simeone

Diego Simeone remains committed to Atletico Madrid (John Walton/PA)

“Everything that comes before me is wonderful, I see a lot of hope that this is going to generate important changes.

“It’s almost eight years, it’s normal for these things to happen. I hope we can continue growing and continue competing as we have always done.”

Goalkeeper Jan Oblak will miss the Levante game with a thigh injury, with Antonio Adan in line to deputise.

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