Barcelona v Atletico Madrid: Do Barca really need Griezmann?
It is looking increasingly likely that Antoine Griezmann will be a Barcelona player before the end of 2018.
Latest reports in Spain - as Atleti prepare to travel to Camp Nou on Sunday for a crunch title showdown - suggest an agreement has been reached between the player's representatives and Barca, who have even kept aside the number seven shirt in anticipation of his arrival.
The LaLiga leaders' senior players are said to have given their approval to the signing of the France international, whose €100million release clause represents a relatively modest price in the post-Neymar landscape.
Barca would likely free up funds for Griezmann's fee and wages by offloading the likes of Andre Gomes, Munir El Haddadi and Paco Alcacer, with president Josep Maria Bartomeu reportedly having driven negotiations to a point at which both the Catalans and Atletico Madrid would be penalised financially if the deal fell through.
However, even with the groundwork for the transfer apparently laid, there are question marks over why Barca need to sign another forward, with Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, Ousmane Dembele and Philippe Coutinho comprising a 'fantastic four'.
So what, exactly, would the 26-year-old bring to Camp Nou? What would be his role? With the help of Opta data, we go exploring...
8 - Antoine Griezmann’s last 10 shots on target in all competitions:
— OptaJose (@OptaJose) March 2, 2018
Although he has recaptured his ruthless best in 2018, Luis Suarez is closer to the end of his peak days at Barcelona than the beginning.
The striker turned 31 last month and has already showed one or two signs of slowing down, which goes some way towards explaining his recent tendency to be offside at almost every opportunity.
There is a broad school of thought that Griezmann will be signed as the long-term replacement for Suarez, and he certainly possesses the clinical edge needed.
Griezmann has scored 20 goals in all competitions from 2,734 minutes played, giving him an average of one every 137 minutes. His sensational four-goal haul to sink Leganes took that ratio below Suarez's, whose 23 this term have arrived every 141 minutes.
The 26-year-old's goals have come from just 90 shots (46 of which have been on targete), while Suarez has managed 136 attempts and 62 on target. There is undeniable accuracy to the France star's attacking threat.
Griezmann became the second player this season in Europe's top five leagues to reach double figures for goals and assists. No prizes for guessing who was first.
Messi has managed 31 goals and 15 assists, compared to Griezmann's 20 goals and 10 assists. He has also created a remarkable 93 chances in total, 43 more than Griezmann (Suarez, incidentally, is on 52).
Asking Griezmann to replicate what Messi produces might sound a bit unfair, but there is every chance he could play the same sort of role, either alongside the Argentine or in his place.
His free role with Atletico has seen him complete 79 per cent of his passes this season, which is a better rate than Suarez and only two per cent down on Messi.
Griezmann can also cope with the heavy-handed treatment Messi frequently faces. He has won 143 duels in all competitions, averaging out at one successful tussle every 19 minutes; Messi's average is slightly better, at one every 11. He's also earned 50 free-kicks in total, although Messi still rather leads that particular race on 95.
36 - Lionel Messi has now scored against more different teams than any other player in La Liga history, surpassing Raul Gonzalez and Aritz Aduriz (35). Genie. pic.twitter.com/zjEPCuHAVU
— OptaJose (@OptaJose) February 24, 2018
IN-TUNE WITH COUTINHO?
Should Griezmann drop into a deeper role, he would likely compete with Philippe Coutinho and Ousmane Dembele, the two most expensive players in Barca history.
Neither of those two has quite settled in Catalonia, of course, with Dembele's season largely ruined by injuries and Coutinho having only signed in January.
However, the data suggests Griezmann would not offer much of an improvement in those positions. For one thing, his average of one chance created every 54 minutes does not match up to those of Coutinho (one every 52 minutes) or Dembele (one every 36).
Griezmann has also completed just nine more dribbles than Dembele (18), and 14 more than Coutinho (13), despite playing 33 matches in all competitions. Incidentally, Messi has managed 187.
What's more, despite his passing accuracy being good, it is worse than that of his compatriot (85 per cent) or the former Liverpool star (86 per cent). Of course, playing at Barca might well bring out a few more of his regular attacking proclivities.
3 - Players with most goals scored from outside the box in Europe’s top five leagues in last five seasons:
Lionel Messi 29
PHILIPPE COUTINHO 19
Cristiano Ronaldo 19
— OptaJose (@OptaJose) February 24, 2018