“I’ve made the decision to leave.” The words that Atletico Madrid fans have both feared and, in truth, expected for some time.
It is a statement from Antoine Griezmann, the club’s star player, that has opened the door for a $139.5 million move to Barcelona.
The huge figure was placed in the five-year contract extension signed by Griezmann in June 2018.
Griezmann’s former club, Real Sociedad, will receive around $28 million from the transfer after placing a 20% sell-on fee in his contract, reports Marca.
He has long been a target for the La Liga reigning champion and, speaking in a video to address his club’s fans directly after meeting with manager Diego Simeone and chief executive Miguel Angel, he revealed that he would be looking to end his five-year spell with the team.
In the video aired on Atletico’s social media channels, the 28-year-old said: “I wanted to tell you that I’ve made the decision to leave to experience new things and have new challenges. It’s been very hard for me to take this path, but I feel that it’s what I need.
“I wanted to thank you for all the love you’ve given me in these five years, in which I’ve won my first important trophies with a club. They were incredible moments that I will always remember. The truth is you’re in my heart.”
He added: “It isn’t easy for a player to receive so much love. That’s why I wanted to tell you today so that you’re the first to know after the [head] coach and the club.
“I’ve given my all on the pitch, I’ve tried to behave well. Thank you so much, and goodbye.”
Griezmann, who has won 69 caps for France and scored in last year’s World Cup final victory over Croatia, has spent his entire professional career in Spain: first with Real Sociedad and, since 2014, with Atletico. When he extended his contract last year, he had done so in a TV documentary called ‘The Decision’.
However, with Barcelona likely looking to strengthen after a dramatic Champions League semifinal defeat to Liverpool, Griezmann could soon have a third Spanish side on his CV.
It is another summer of regeneration for Atletico, with captain Diego Godin already announcing that he is set to leave the club at the end of his contract, as well as stalwart Juanfran.
Another defender, Lucas Hernandez, has also agreed a deal to join Bayern Munich in an $87.8 million deal.
Meanwhile, Barcelona faces Valencia in the Copa del Rey final on May 25, having already secured the La Liga title.