Griezmann attempts to find feet on rocky ground at Barca - GulfToday

Griezmann attempts to find feet on rocky ground at Barca


Chelsea’s players attend a training session on the eve of their Champions League match against Lille. Agence France-Presse

Antoine Griezmann said he knew it would be tough settling in at Barcelona but it may have proven harder than he thought. Barca play at home to Inter Milan on Wednesday looking for lift-off in the Champions League after a goalless draw against Borussia Dortmund made for an underwhelming start to their latest bid for success in Europe.

Griezmann also has something to prove after two steady but unspectacular months, elevated by moments rather than the consistency Ernesto Valverde would have hoped for when the Frenchman’s 120-million euro release clause was activated last summer.

“Against Bilbao he was not as involved as we would like,” Valverde said at the start of the season.

“But it is also up to the team to allow our strikers to participate more.”

When Griezmann scored twice in the next game, against Real Betis, before tossing glitter above his head at Camp Nou, it felt like he had made his big introduction and not just because of the theatrics.

But five La Liga games have since brought only one more goal and assist while a handful of rather muted displays have left a sense of a player finding his feet, despite excelling in La Liga for the past nine seasons.

After last week’s win over Villarreal, Griezmann was asked about his start at Barcelona.

“It’s different,” he said.

“It’s a different type of football, a different position and I knew it was going to be difficult to adjust.

“But I feel like I’m improving every game and that’s it. Three goals, it’s not bad right? I can do better but I just arrived. I work for the team and if I can score or assist, even better.” Griezmann has reason to defend himself. He joined a team that after five games had posted its lowest points total in 25 years, with last season’s collapse against Liverpool still lingering, not least for Valverde, whose future is never secure.

He also arrived as one of the world’s premium strikers but found his new club pursuing Neymar for the duration of the summer, as if the Brazilian might add something he could not.

There were relationships to repair too, with Barcelona’s fans and players, after Griezmann not only turned them down 12 months before but embarassed them, by announcing his decision in a documentary.

“I’ve spent very little time with him to be honest,” Lionel Messi told     Diario Sport last month. “Since I returned, I’ve been injured and training on my own.

“They went on tour and when they came back we saw each other a little in the dressing room but I’ve not been there in the training sessions. We’ll have the opportunity to share a lot of things.”

Meanwhile, While Frank Lampard’s Chelsea grapple with a ban on signing new players, Wednesday’s Champions League rivals Lille have returned to Europe’s top table this season in large part thanks to the work of a Portuguese transfer guru.

Luis Campos is a friend of former Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho who has been in charge of recruitment at the French outfit since 2017 and helped build a team, led by Nicolas Pepe, that finished second in Ligue 1 last season.

That allowed Lille to qualify for the Champions League group stage for the first time since 2012, although they head into the game at the Stade Pierre-Mauroy seeking to bounce back after a 3-0 defeat at Ajax a fortnight ago.

However, just being here at all is a cause for celebration for a club who were in disarray 18 months ago, having only just avoided relegation following Marcelo Bielsa’s short-lived spell as coach.

Christophe Galtier, the ex-Saint-Etienne boss and one-time Portsmouth assistant manager, has revived their fortunes since then but he could not have done so without Campos.

Like Mourinho, Campos was very young when he gave up on playing and moved into coaching. Unlike his compatriot, Campos did not enjoy great success in the dugout but he ended up joining Mourinho’s staff at Real Madrid in 2012.

He then went on to advise Monaco on recruitment and is credited with helping bring the likes of Benjamin Mendy and Thomas Lemar to the principality.

“Luis played a massive part in us winning the title in 2017. We will never take that away from him,” Monaco’s former Russian vice-president, Vadim Vasilyev, told     L’Equipe.

By then, however, Campos had already taken his expertise to Lille, coaxed there by owner Gerard Lopez, although he remains a Monaco resident.


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