Atletico Madrid played out an entertaining — if frustrating — 0-0 Derbi Madrileno draw with Real Madrid at the Bernabeu on Saturday night.
It was a topsy-turvy game that saw Atleti create a number of first-half chances only to be denied by former keeper Thibaut Courtois at the important moment.
It was Jan Oblak’s turn after the break, with Real dominating the second period, however Los Rojiblancos held firm and kept out everything that the European champions could throw at them and took a point that suits them a lot more than it does Julen Lopetegui’s men.
Six La Liga games in a row without defeat at the Bernabeu. Who would have thought that when Los Colchoneros went 14 years without a win — home or away — against their neighbours between 1999 and 2013.
Neither Antoine Griezmann nor Diego Costa could take very presentable chances and the latter’s lack of goals is starting to become a concern.
Manager rating out of 10
7 — A tough one to grade Diego Simeone on. The starting XI were the better team in the first half, however he looked flummoxed by Lopetegui’s half-time substitutions and it took him a long time to remedy it. Still, after claiming a point and new La Liga record it is hard to be too critical.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Jan Oblak, 9 — Made a couple of smart stops in the first half, however he almost had a Loris Karius moment when he passed the ball straight to the onrushing Marco Asensio but got away with it. Then produced a stunning one-on-one save to deny the Spaniard after the break, amongst other top-drawer saves.
DF Juanfran, 7 — Booked for a hack on Dani Ceballos as Atleti struggled with his introduction but was otherwise solid at the back and a menace going forwards.
DF Jose Gimenez, 9 — Won his battle to be fit and it was a good job he did as he was arguably man of the match. Showed incredible pace to stop a Marco Asensio-led counter-attack.
DF Diego Godin, 7 — Made a huge gaffe that Gimenez bailed him out from. Aside from that he had the better of Karim Benzema and cC.
DF Filipe Luis, 7 — Much like Juanfran he was secure with his defensive work and got forward with gusto. Sent a shot just wide from distance late on.
MF Koke, 6 — Thought he had won a penalty when his cross hit Casemiro’s hand but the referee was not having it. Always combative and fought for every second ball.
MF Saul Niguez, 8 — Had a couple of efforts from distance that stung the palms of Courtois early on. Grew as the game went on both on and off the ball.
MF Rodrigo, 9 — Very, very impressive. The best midfielder on the pitch, which was no mean feat given he was up against ‘The Best’ winner Luka Modric. Always asked for the ball and kept a cool head when those around him lost theirs a bit. Oddly subbed with five to go.
MF Thomas Lemar 6 — Was lively in the first period when Atleti were on top and looked a threat every time he got on the ball. One of many who suffered after the break and was hooked on the hour.
FW Antoine Griezmann, 6 — Spoke a lot in the build-up but could not let his football do the talking as he spurned a one-one-one he should have buried.
FW Diego Costa, 6 — Denied one-on-one by Courtois in the first half. His goal drought in La Liga now dates back to February and is starting to become worrying. Fought for everything but it was not his day. Looked absolutely shattered when subbed with just over 20 to go.
MF Angel Correa (for Lemar), 6 — Got slapped by Sergio Ramos within seconds of coming on. Always lively and his directness was a welcome introduction.
MF Thomas Partey (for Costa), 7 — Helped Atletico wrestle back some much-needed control in midfield in the final 25.
FW Nikola Kalinic (for Rodrigo), NR — Brought on to run the clock down.
Last week Antoine Griezmann caused quite a stir when, in an interview, he claimed he was now “sitting at the same table as the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.”
Frankly, it could not have been worse timed, with Atletico in something of a rut, having just scraped a last minute 1-1 draw at home to Eibar after a chastening away to Celta Vigo before the international break. Griezmann had just one La Liga goal to his name and was not exactly setting the world on fire, either. Not to mention FIFA’s “The Best” awards were about to take place and the Frenchman was absent from the top three shortlist — headed up by Ronaldo.
There is no doubting that over the past couple of years Griezmann has shot to global superstardom. His own toe-curling “La Decision” documentary when he announced he would be staying at Atleti was evidence of that, while nobody can doubt the starring roles he has played in France’s last two major tournaments, culminating in this summer’s World Cup success.
But to liken himself to Messi and Ronaldo? Two players widely acknowledged to be the best to have ever played the game. That is not the kind of thing that Los Rojiblancos fans wanted to be reading after an underwhelming start to a season in which big things were expected of Diego Simeone’s new-look side.
Like La Decision, it was perhaps an example of those around the player not giving him the best advice, or perhaps suggesting better timing for the interview.
They also drew a stinging rebuke from Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos, who said “Ignorance can be brash. When I hear this guy speak, it reminds me of players such as [Francesco] Totti, Raul, [Gianluigi] Buffon, [Iker] Casillas, [Paolo] Maldini, Xavi or [Andres] Iniesta, players who have won many awards and titles but never a Ballon d’Or.”
While the most-red carded player in La Liga history is not exactly the most moral of arbiters around, given some of his past actions and comments, his point was valid.
However, a week or so can be a long time in football, and since making those comments fortunes have indeed picked up both for Griezmann and Atletico Madrid.
A commanding Champions League victory over Monaco, in which Griezmann teed up the opener and was the best player on the pitch, was backed up by another standout display away at Getafe, where he played a major part in Thomas Lemar’s goals.
He returned to the scoresheet against Huesca on Tuesday night and — with results going their way — Los Colchoneros remarkably find themselves only two points off top spot despite their initial teething problems.
This weekend will see Griezmann meet Ramos in the season’s first Derbi Madrileno as Atleti visit a Real Madrid side coming off of a 3-0 thrashing by Sevilla in midweek.
After appearing way off the pace and a little bit directionless not so long ago, Los Rojiblancos can actually leapfrog their great city rivals with a win.
You can bet that Griezmann will be that little extra motivated following the Real skipper’s public dressing down and will be out to prove a point in that sense. There is also the small matter of fact that this is a fixture that Ronaldo used to love playing — and scoring — in.
After comprehensively beating the Bernabeu outfit in the European Super Cup in August, Atleti will fancy their chances again this weekend in a fixture that has seen both club and No. 7s alike excel in recent seasons.
Simeone has not lost in his last five La Liga visits to the Bernabeu — winning three and drawing two — and is 90 minutes away from equalling the longest ever run of away sides securing at least a point across the Spanish capital.
To put that into context, the current record was set between 1942 and 1948 by Valencia. This, the same Atleti that Madrid fans once taunted by holding up a banner that said “Wanted: a real rival for a proper derby” when they went 14 years without a win in the fixture. How times have changed.
Griezmann himself has good memories too, scoring in his last three league appearances at the Bernabeu and first really announcing himself as an Atletico player back in 2015 when they hammered Carlo Ancelotti’s side 4-0 at the Vicente Calderon.
If he is to back his words up with actions — and make Ramos eat his at the same time — then perhaps we can just start to think that his claims about being at the very top of the game were not so fanciful after all.
Antoine Griezmann said he lost sleep during the summer as he debated whether to leave Atletico Madrid for Barcelona.
Griezmann decided to sign a new contract with Atletico rather than join Barca in a video released before France’s opening World Cup game against Australia in June and said it was the “most difficult” decision he has ever made.
“There were times when I wasn’t feeling good,” Griezmann told Telefoot. “I spoke about it with my wife. I woke her up at three in the morning and asked her, ‘What are we going to do?’ Because I tried to talk about it, but she can’t help me, she doesn’t know what I’m thinking. My parents, either. Some members of my family wanted to see me [at Barcelona], others no, so, it was difficult.”
Griezmann has been at Atletico since moving from Real Sociedad in 2014. He helped them win the Europa League and UEFA Super Cup this year and also won the World Cup with France.
He has forged a strong bond with other Atletico players, many of whom did what they could to convince their top scorer to stay.
“Everyone was calling me, seeing how I was, asking me what I was thinking,” Griezmann said. “Each time, they said to me, ‘We want you to stay. We’ll do everything for you to stay. We’re ready to do a lot of things.’ That touches you.
“In the Champions League, we want to do better than we did last year when we weren’t able to get past the last 16. I think that it was mostly my fault because I wasn’t good mentally, and in the league — as usual — to challenge [Barcelona and Real Madrid].”
And while the World Cup ended nearly three months ago, Griezmann remains fixated on marking the win with a championship ring for his teammates.
An NBA fanatic, Griezmann reportedly contacted a Los Angeles jeweller to produce a ring design that he — after some help from France teammate Paul Pogba — is delighted will come to fruition.
“Paul has spoken to the [French Football] Federation,” Griezmann said. “They’re going to help us a bit. When they give them to us, we’ll be like kids. It’ll be cool.”
Real Madrid, who beat Liverpool 3-1 in May for a third Champions League trophy in a row, embark on their title defence without Cristiano Ronaldo. Madrid’s all-time leading scorer left for Juventus in the summer while Zinedine Zidane, mastermind of those three triumphs, stepped down.
“He marked a marvellous period for Real Madrid and he shattered practically all of the records here, but that’s in the past,” Ramos said. “We can’t live on what Cristiano did in the past. The hole he left is very big but it’s covered by others players with a lot of ambition and desire and we have a big squad to compete. We wish him the best, as always.
“He gave us a lot and took very little away. He was very direct, had lots of goals in him and we played more on the counter. Now, we have to adapt to another style. We have more possession and another way to hurt our opponents and that is what we have to exploit.”
Madrid coach Julen Lopetegui refused to confirm his first choice goalkeeper for the Champions League, after summer signing Thibaut Courtois’ arrival from Chelsea.
Keylor Navas kept goal for Madrid’s three Champions League successes in a row and started the first three matches of the season before Courtois replaced him for win against Leganes and 1-1 draw against Athletic Bilbao.
“I’ll say it again but we have magnificent solution in goals,” Lopetegui said. “I’m not going to say anything regarding who will start.”
ESPN FC’s Real Madrid blogger Robbie Dunne contributed to this report.
Antoine Griezmann has said that although he is a different player to Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo, he is “at the top” in football.
Atletico Madrid forward Griezmann, a World Cup winner with France, is targeting the Ballon d’Or after the disappointment of not being nominated for FIFA’s The Best award.
“There are different ways to look at football,” he told Diario AS. “It’s obvious that I’m a different player to Cristiano, Messi, Neymar or [Kylian] Mbappe.
“I’m at the top but I can get better. I want to be the most complete I can be. I’m not going to score 50 goals, but I look to help in attack and work for the team.”
Asked whether he was dining at the same table as Messi, he said: “Yes, I think so. But I know other players will emerge for sure. At that table, there are nice pictures I have, and I enjoy it there, but I know that I can get better.”
Having turned down a move to Barcelona in the summer, Griezmann said he believed in the prospect of future success with Atletico.
“Saying no to Barcelona shows Atletico’s greatness, [coach] Diego Simeone, my teammates,” he said.
“If they were bad, I’d be gone. But I have confidence in Simeone, in the club and in my teammates. I want to make them grow and I have confidence in them to make me grow.
“We have helped each other a lot and everything is very positive so that this keeps improving.”
Griezmann missed out on nomination for The Best award despite his World Cup and Europa League wins and said it was a shame that no France player had made the list.
“There’s nothing we can do,” he said. “It’s FIFA’s award and it’s a pity that there were no World Cup winners nominated. We had a great World Cup and the whole team deserved an award.
“I think the Ballon d’Or has more prestige, more history. I have it in the back of my head. I have three months to give everything, and then we’ll see what happens.”
Griezmann has scored just once for Atleti this season as they have taken only five points from 12 in their worst start under Simeone, but after suffering a tough period last year he said he believed things could turn.
“I was quite bad,” he said. “I don’t know, I saw everything very bad. I was thinking that it was everyone else’s fault and I didn’t feel good.
“When I’m not feeling good off the field, on the field I’m worse too. But with the help of Simeone, my teammates, Godin, who I spent a lot of time with, and with the help of my partner…we turned it around.
“Diego Costa arrived, who helped me on the field, and it got better from January until now.”
Griezmann added that Simeone “asks me to play between the lines and not to drop too deep, but sometimes I see the team needs a pausa [someone to slow things down], and I will drop in that case.
“When I see my teammates defending, I don’t say to myself that I will stay up front and they’ll bring the ball up to me. I prefer to help for the good of the team.”
Diego Simeone says he has no doubt that Antoine Griezmann was the best footballer in the world over the course of the past year.
The Atletico Madrid striker was left off The FIFA Best Players podium with Luka Modric, Cristiano Ronaldo and Mohamed Salah named instead.
“In the last year he was, without doubt, the best player in the world,” Simeone says after naming off all the trophies and individual accomplishments Griezmann won during 2018. “Without doubt.”
Griezmann was close to leaving Atletico Madrid in the summer but made a decision to stay, which he documented in a television show that was broadcast before the World Cup. Simeone, however, says he never feared losing his talisman.
“I swear on my kids that I never saw us losing him,” Simeone says as he explained he found out the news when he was in Los Angeles on holiday. “I never saw him at Barcelona. I always felt like he would stay.”
Another Atletico man who has been overlooked during award season was Jan Oblak, and Simeone believes he has been hard done by. Most recently, Gianluigi Buffon, Thibaut Courtois, David De Gea, Keylor Navas and Marc-Andre ter Stegen were named among the nominees for goalkeeper of the season for the FIFPro Awards. Simeone thinks it’s an oversight.
“Oblak is the best, and at least in the top three keepers in the world,” Simeone said. “To not be in that group gives it very little credibility.”
The Atletico Madrid manager also says that Thibaut Courtois would not make it into his current side. “Oblak is better,” he said without a second thought.
The Argentine has often said that Atletico Madrid are fighting for third place in Spain but believes without Ronaldo, they are moving closer to their city rivals.
“In results, no,” he said when asked if Atletico were worse than Real Madrid. “But characteristics, yes,” adding that his team had a better chance of finishing ahead of Los Blancos now that Ronaldo had moved on.
Griezmann had previously revealed his desire to end his career in the United States — once he had won a Champions League and World Cup. Now, having achieved one of his two main goals following France’s success in Russia, it appears the dream finale is drawing even closer.
“If he [Beckham] wants me at his club, then I’ll go,” Griezmann told L’Equipe. “I want to finish in the MLS.
“We will see if that will be in Los Angeles or Miami. They are two nice cities.
“I like the mentality and the showbusiness culture they have in the U.S.”
Instead, Juventus star Cristiano Ronaldo, Real Madrid midfielder Luka Modric or Liverpool forward Mohamed Salah will claim the honour on Sept. 24. The Manchester United midfielder said that Griezmann and fellow France attacker Kylian Mbappe should concentrate on maintaining their good form in order to be in the running for the prize in future.
“I already spoke with ‘Grizou’ about the [FIFA award],” Pogba told reporters after France’s 0-0 draw with Germany in Munich on Thursday.
“For him, he needs to continue what he’s doing. He shouldn’t think about it and it will come all by itself.
“He’s on a very, very good run. Kylian is too, so they just need to continue what they’re doing.
“If I could — if my word was strong enough — I would have wanted a French player to win the award but it’s not me who decides these things.
“Frankly they just need to continue what they’re doing and if they should be [the winner], they will be.”
Meanwhile, Germany defender Antonio Rudiger hailed Mbappe as “deadly” after playing 90 minutes against the Paris Saint-Germain forward for the first time.
Chelsea stalwart Rudiger, 25, filled in at left-back on Thursday as Germany held the world champions in their opening UEFA Nations League clash.
Mbappe, 19, drew plenty of gasps from the crowd as he threatened to find a way through the German defence with a combination of speed and stylish flicks. The home side held firm but Rudiger made clear that it was extremely tough to keep the France No. 10 in check.
“Do you watch football or not?” Rudiger joked, when asked what makes Mbappe so special. “The thing is he’s unbelievably fast. He makes the difference. He is very fast, his agility… his movement is deadly.”
A Dutch defence led by Liverpool’s Virgil Van Dijk will be the next to try and keep Mbappe quiet on Sunday. Van Dijk should face the teenager again when Liverpool host PSG in their first Champions League group game on Sept. 18, and Rudiger thinks there is only one way to stop him.
“Play as a team,” the former Roma defender said. “You can’t do it alone. As a team, you have to try to stop him. Because alone — good luck!”
France coach Didier Deschamps has told his players that they should view their World Cup win in Russia this summer as a source of “strength” and not a “burden” to live up to.
Les Bleus beat Croatia 4-2 in the Moscow final in July and will play their first competitive match since then against Germany in UEFA’s new Nations League tournament at Allianz Arena on Thursday.
Speaking at a pre-match news conference on Wednesday, Deschamps warned his squad about believing their own hype.
“I told my players that this title must be a strength, not a burden,” the French tactician said. “If we fall to euphoria, we will quickly be caught.”
Defender Raphael Varane echoed Deschamps’ point of view and insisted that it is back to business for the French, who now want to add continental success to their world glory.
“Our status as world champions will not change the way that we approach our games,” said the Real Madrid man. “We are enjoying this success but already planning the next.”
Deschamps is a fan of UEFA’s introduction of the Nations League and can see nothing but positive things in it.
“The Nations League is a great opportunity to qualify for the European Championships,” he said. “The format might seem a bit complicated, but I only see opportunity.”
Varane admitted that the Nations League giving them a trip to Germany first is a good thing, even if he and his teammates are looking forward to getting back to Paris and Stade de France to face the Netherlands this weekend.
“Sunday will be great,” he said. “I think that we are deserving of a nice homecoming. However, starting with a big away match is also a good thing.”
Varane is pleased to be spoken about as a potential Ballon d’Or winner but feels Griezmann, Kylian Mbappe and N’Golo Kante are also deserving.
“I am glad that we are talking about me as a potential Ballon d’Or winner,” said the 25-year-old. “However, there are other deserving players in this team, such as Kylian and Antoine, N’Golo too — somebody who often goes unmentioned.
“It is not a contentious issue within the squad — we do not even talk about it.”
Deschamps also revealed that the whole squad is match-ready and hinted that he will field the same starting XI that won the World Cup final against Croatia, with the exception of absent captain and goalkeeper Hugo Lloris.
“All of the players are physically ready to start,” said the 1998 World Cup and 2000 European Championship-winning former captain. “From then on, everything is open.
“I could realign the starting XI from the final… Or not.”
Varane is excited for Paris Saint-Germain reserve goalkeeper Alphonse Areola, who currently boasts a World Cup winners’ medal without having made his senior debut and is set to start against Germany.
“Alphonse is a world champion in his own right,” said Varane. “He has tremendous physical qualities and his style is quite different from Hugo’s.
“I am sure that Alphonse will play his part perfectly.”
Deschamps also rejected the idea that he will stick with the successful 4-4-2 formation that secured World Cup success in Russia and that he could change shape if the circumstances call for it.
“I am not wedded to any particular system,” he said. “That said, the 4-4-2 did satisfy our needs at the World Cup and allowed us to impose ourselves.
Antoine Griezmann has said he has a realistic chance of winning the Ballon d’Or this year but has criticised FIFA for failing to recognise France’s World Cup players at The Best awards.
Atletico Madrid and France forward Griezmann won the Europa League last season before lifting the World Cup in Russia. And after finishing third in the 2016 poll having lost the Champions League and Euro 2016 finals, Griezmann believes he has a realistic chance of picking up football’s most coveted individual prize.
“Yes, I’m thinking about it, especially as I’m getting closer and closer to it,” he told L’Equipe. “When I finished third in 2016, I had lost two finals. Now, I’ve won three. The Ballon d’Or is a prestigious award and for a player it’s the summit. There’s nothing better, nothing bigger. There can be trophies in your league, the World Cup, the Euros, it’s not the same.
“I would ask myself what I would have to do more. I have won three trophies, I’ve been important in decisive moments. But it’s not me who votes.
“Comparing with 2016, I have to be in the final three.”
“It’s bizarre, and a shame, it’s FIFA who award the trophy right?” said Griezmann. “And the World Cup is organised by FIFA, right? We won the World Cup and there is no Frenchman at the end. It’s a choice, but it’s surprising there’s no world champion.”
“Paul really stepped up a level in the dressing room. He had the right words that pushed us on. Hugo [Lloris], Raph [Varane] and Blaise [Matuidi], we knew they were there, but Paul, yes, that surprised us more and it did us good that he spoke like that,” Griezmann added.
“For me, each time he speaks, I want to laugh. Paul is so used to messing around that it surprises me. That’s why when he speaks, he never looks at me. He knows I’ll have a little smile and he could laugh at any time. But that did him good and us too.
“He won back the ball and played quickly. He gained a lot of confidence during the World Cup. He must not change, nor that the comments about him change. He should be like N’Golo [Kante] — he wins the ball and gives it to the forwards.”
Thomas Lemar has said France teammate Antoine Griezmann’s decision to stay at Atletico Madrid and his praise for the club helped convince him to join them.
Lemar became Atletico’s most expensive signing when he arrived from Monaco in a €70 million deal this summer.
“It’s obvious that chat from Antoine and also from Lucas Hernandez, speaking to me about the club and telling me it is really good to advance and continue my career, helped me to choose Atletico,” he told Spanish newspaper Marca.
Asked whether his arrival had had anything to do with Griezmann’s decision to stay, Lemar said: “I know he really wanted me to come and he’s happy that I’m here so that we can do good things this season.”
Griezmann is a candidate for the Ballon d’Or after winning the Europa League and then helping France to victory at the World Cup, and Lemar said: “It [Griezmann winning the award] is what I expect to happen and something I wish with all my heart.”
Meanwhile, Lemar said he did not feel any pressure at Atletico because of his big price tag.
“I say that the figures are between the clubs. I don’t have anything to do with that,” he said. “I just have to do my work on the field and everything will go well … or so I hope.”
The midfielder said he had not found it difficult to settle in at his new club, praising the help of his teammates.
“I’m not a complicated person,” he added. “It’s much easier with players like Diego Costa, who is really crazy, and Koke. They are fantastic people.
“Later, when Antoine and Lucas arrived, I spoke French with them and everything became much easier.”
New season, same old Atletico Madrid as they ground out a turgid 1-0 victory over local rivals Rayo Vallecano thanks to Antoine Griezmann’s effort.
It looked as if it was going to be one of those frustrating nights for Los Rojiblancos, who huffed and puffed without much success until Griezmann turned in Stefan Savic’s header from close range. Once again they were indebted to Jan Oblak, who pulled off a stunning save to ensure the European Super Cup winners of a first victory of the season.
A win is a win. Good for Griezmann to get back in the goals, while Oblak continues to prove his worth to the side.
That Oblak had to bail the team out for the second consecutive week is something of a worry. Likewise so in Juanfran’s injury.
Manager rating out of 10
7 — Diego Simeone picked a side that just about got the job done. However, he’ll be concerned about the amount of chances such a usually watertight defence offered up.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Jan Oblak, 8 — Didn’t have much to do until the final 10 minutes in which Rayo peppered his goal, with one save in particular from Sergio Moreno catching the eye.
DF Juanfran 6 — Was fine before having to leave the pitch after half an hour with an injury. Hopefully it is nothing serious.
DF Stefan Savic, 6 — Looked the sturdier of the centre backs, but that is largely because Diego Godin appears uncomfortable playing next to him. His header set up the goal, but he lost Moreno late on and was bailed out by Oblak.
DF Diego Godin, 6 — See above. Does not look happy playing next to Savic, and you have to wonder why, given the immense partnership and understanding he has with Jose Maria Gimenez, that pairing is not revisited.
DF Lucas Hernandez, 7 — Once again looked the business in a position that theoretically is not his own and is keeping Filipe Luis well out of the team at present. Kept the potentially dangerous Gael Kakuta quiet.
MF Angel Correa, 6 — Looked most likely in the first half and was denied by a good save, however lost influence after the break and was hooked at 1-0.
MF Saul Niguez, 6 — Worked tirelessly, but it just hasn’t happened for him in an offensive sense in the past couple of games as he made the wrong decision on more than one occasion. Does a vital job for the side, though.
MF Rodrigo, 7 — Is looking the part in the “Gabi role” just in front of the back four. Recycles possession quickly and efficiently. Produced an outstanding recovery tackle on Luis Advincula when he threatened to burst through.
MF Thomas Lemar, 7 — Looking lively. His directness and pace give Los Colchoneros something they have desperately lacked over the past couple of seasons. His quality on the ball is there for all to see, and it is interesting to see he has taken over corner duty, too.
FW Antoine Griezmann, 8 — His understanding with Lemar is promising. Worked his socks off, as he always does, and was once again the right man in the right place at the right time to get his side the three points.
FW Diego Costa, 6 — Fought hard, but this is Costa, what else do you expect? Did not have enough space behind a deep Rayo defence to exploit with his all-action style tonight.
Thomas Partey (for Juanfran), 7 — Fast becoming the utility man of this squad. Brought energy and pace to the right-hand flank. Did what little defensive work he had to do with the minimum of fuss.
Koke (for Correa), 6 — Helped settle things down in the middle of the park in the final half-hour.
Gelson (for Griezmann), NR — A willing runner, but with Atleti not looking to attack, he struggled to get involved.
Things change in the blink of an eye in football. The Football Whispers Index takes the latest transfer rumours and gives them a score out of five; the higher the score, the more realistic and reliable the Whisper.
Here are today’s top five emerging whispers. And keep an eye on Transfer Talk for all the latest gossip.
Aaron Ramsey to Manchester United
Manchester United are reportedly considering a January swoop for Arsenal midfielder Ramsey and are monitoring his situation at Emirates Stadium. Wales international Ramsey is out of contract in the summer of 2019 and is yet to sign a new deal in North London, despite being offered one. The Sun claim Arsenal are concerned the 27-year-old is interested in a move away and are bracing themselves for an approach from United, with the club having signed Alexis Sanchez in the same manner this year.
Keylor Navas to Manchester City
News of Claudio Bravo’s Achilles rupture has left Pep Guardiola short of a deputy to first-choice keeper Ederson. As a result, Manchester City are keen on a loan move for Real Madrid’s Navas, according to The Sun. The Costa Rica international has found himself replaced as No.1 by the signing of former Chelsea keeper Thibaut Courtois, though three-time Champions League winner Navas is reportedly keen to stay at the Bernabeu to fight for his place.
Antoine Griezmann to Bayern Munich
Bayern have reportedly identified Griezmann as one of two players to potentially reinvigorate their squad next summer and are prepared to match his Atletico Madrid release clause. Bild believe the Bayern board are willing to the sanction the purchase of the France international for €200 million. Griezmann rejected the chance to move to Barcelona this summer, instead signing a new contract at Atletico and declaring his desire to win more silverware with the Spanish outfit.
Paulo Dybala to Bayern Munich
Juventus striker Dybala also heads Bayern’s shortlist for potential new signings, although the Bavarian giants are not considering making a move for the Argentine until next summer. According to Bild, “significant funds” are to be made available for a marquee transfer in 2019 as Bayern’s attacking stalwarts Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben enter their mid-30s. Dybala’s blossoming on-field relationship with Cristiano Ronaldo means a deal will be difficult but Bayern are confident they can sell the club to the 24-year-old.
Marcos Alonso to Atletico Madrid
With Filipe Luis declaring he wants to quit Atletico for Paris Saint-Germain, the La Liga club are considering Chelsea left-back Alonso as a replacement for the Brazilian. AS report that with PSG prepared to meet Luis’ €30m release clause, Alonso represents a younger, affordable option for Diego Simeone’s side. However, Real Madrid coach Julen Lopetegui is also a fan of the 27-year-old. Alonso came the academy at Madrid before leaving the club in 2010.
Antoine Griezmann downplayed his chances of winning the Ballon d’Or after scoring four goals for France in the World Cup and finishing second in the race for the Golden Boot.
Griezmann scored a penalty in the 4-2 victory over Croatia in the World Cup final on Sunday and was named Man of the Match for the third time in the tournament. And, as he scored twice in Atletico Madrid’s victory over Marseille in the Europa League final in May, he has a chance to improve upon his third-place finish in the Ballon d’Or voting from 2016.
“The Ballon d’Or … well, people are voting for it, so we will see what is going to happen,” Griezmann told reporters after the game. “I still have a European Super Cup to play. I hope we are going to win it.
“At the moment, I really want to enjoy and have a good time with our families and the whole of the French people in France. I want to have a good holiday. And I want to be ready for the European Super Cup. As I said the Ballon d’Or [voting] is not in my hands.”
Griezmann was close to joining Barcelona earlier this summer but eventually turned down a €100 million move to the Camp Nou in a documentary released to chronicle the decision. Thus, he dedicated his World Cup win to Atletico’s fans.
“I’m very happy, very proud of the team, my teammates,” Griezmann said. “I am thankful to everybody [and] also Atletico, who are making a big effort to keep winning. I wanted to take the decision [to turn down Barcelona] before the World Cup. I am very proud of the decision I made. This trophy is for all the colchoneros. We have an exciting year ahead of us.”
Meanwhile, France teammate Raphael Varane told reporters that he believes Kylian Mbappe will have successful career after the 19-year-old Paris Saint-Germain forward was named the Best Young Player at the World Cup.
“He has incredible talent and incredible maturity for his age,” Varane said. “If he is in my team I am very happy, but we do not talk about that, just the national team. He is very intelligent, has it all, and an incredible future. He will go very far.”
The victory against Croatia means that Varane has become one of only four players since 1974 to win the World Cup and Champions League in the same season, all with Real Madrid: Christian Karembeu in 1998, Roberto Carlos in 2002, Sami Khedira in 2014 and Varane.
“[Ousmane] Dembele told me I’ve completed the game,” Varane said. “It’s been a great season for me. I don’t realise what I am living through. It is something enormous and fantastic. My career began spectacularly, and now at 25, I’ve won the World Cup. … I have no words for what I feel. I hope this continues.”
“I’d be more worried if Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo had left.”
It was late last summer and Neymar had just walked out on FC Barcelona, and out of Spain, but the league’s president Javier Tebas wasn’t bothered. Not that he — a man whose every word is calculated, not just a reply offered but a role played — would have said so if he really was. That much was proven again this week. Twelve months on and Cristiano Ronaldo is the one leaving.
“Five years ago, I would have been more worried,” Tebas insisted. “If my worry would have been 9/10 then, it is more like 4/10 now.”
So, still a little bit worried then. And yet there is something in what he says. Quite a lot, in fact.
Ronaldo’s departure is damaging for the Spanish league, without doubt. And it does feel like something is shifting after a decade of dominance from two players who can justifiably stake a claim not just as the best players of their generation, but of any generation. Now though, it feels like there is change ahead and with it, some uncertainty. It might sound daft in Messi’s case — after all, he hasn’t gone and last season he was better than ever, way ahead of anyone domestically — but still, there’s something in that. A sense that there will be something missing.
Maybe it’s just that we got so used to it; maybe it’s the fact that they were always thrown together, sometimes a little artificially. Like they were a pack. Often an incredibly tedious one, but an inevitable one too. Messi and Ronaldo. One apparently couldn’t live without the other. Or more to the point, the rest of us looked like we couldn’t live with both. If you name one, you have to name the other. Only name one and everyone wants to know why. How dare you? And on and on it went.
Meanwhile, so did they. Winners of seven of the last 10 European Cups and Europe’s top scorers in eight of the past nine seasons.
Messi and Ronaldo had reached a point where their status was unquestioned even in seasons in which it could legitimately be questioned. Take the Ballon d’Or where, for a decade now, they came out on top and where voting for them became a kind of default setting regardless of what had actually happened. Not least because no one could seriously question their status and nor were they allowed to. So, it was Ronaldo and Messi, Messi and Ronaldo. The battle. And it was in Spain.
Whatever else happened, they were Spain’s. Tebas says that La Liga has worked hard to build a brand beyond the big players and that the league is more than just the names now; up to a point, he’s right. But these were not just names, they were the names. The last 10 — 10! — winners of the Ballon d’Or, for goodness sake. And they were theirs.
Not any more.
Maybe it is not just about Ronaldo’s departure. Maybe this was coming anyway. It was never just about them — La Liga has enjoyed countless other players, celebrated on these pages — although it always seemed to be reduced to them and a decade on, perhaps it was time for someone, or something, else? The World Cup, where attention is concentrated like nowhere else, has suggested as much. Russia has shifted the focus elsewhere, even if momentarily.
First an apology. Maybe even a confession, a recognition of the hypocrisy in decrying all that and then engaging with it. Look, this is a World Cup. The biggest competition of them all. It should be treated on its own merits: it does not necessarily change beyond recognition what comes next and it does not change what went before. It is far more important than anything else.
And there was, for example, something depressing about the front-page headline in Spain on Friday morning that declared that Luka Modric and Antoine Griezmann were “going for the Ballon d’Or.” No” they’re going for the World Cup. You know, the World Cup. The pinnacle of the sport, not some qualification tournament for the Ballon d’Or.
It’s a World Cup that has been built much more on the collective than the individual, too, and that is, by definition, about countries not clubs. Certainly not about leagues. This is not a contest between the Premier League and La Liga, although predictably it has sometimes been presented like that. Even more predictably, within Spain it has become Barcelona vs. Madrid by other means, which makes you want to scream sometimes.
This is the Spanish view, at least, and they were knocked out ages ago. Back to the World Cup, Spain and La Liga. And how just as Ronaldo departed, reality biting hard, perhaps hope emerged too.
Spain were knocked out in the last-16 by Russia, departing having left very little impression on the competition. Andres Iniesta left, for good. The day before, Messi and Ronaldo were knocked out too — eliminated on the same day, inseparable again. At 31 and 33 years old respectively, it felt like it might have been the last chance for both, the beginning of a new era or perhaps an expression of their mortality. And that was troubling, as well as a little sad. Had football tilted away from Spain? What would “next” like look like now, what did the future hold?
The players that people talked about were not Spain’s. Even Tebas might have been a bit worried although he wouldn’t have said so.
It didn’t end there, either. Toni Kroos, scorer of that wonderful goal against Sweden, was soon gone too. By the time the semifinals came around, one headline in Spain sadly declared this the “most Premier League World Cup” in style and in stats, too: 40 of the remaining footballers played in England, 44 of the goals had been scored by Premier League players and the two top scorers were there.
The player that most excited them, meanwhile, was playing in France as Kylian Mbappe had turned down Madrid the previous summer.
All of which left Spain with little. Two days later, though, another headline crowed: “La Liga exposes the Premier League.” What a difference two days make.
And so here we are, going into the final, the last game of a tournament at which someone else takes centre stage. This is not Spain’s final, however much some try to make it so, but in turns out when everyone else has fallen by the way, that there are more La Liga players in the final than there are from any other leagues: 11 of them, to be precise, compared to nine from France, seven from Serie A, six from England, five from Germany, two from Croatia and one each from Belgium, Austria, Turkey, Russia and Ukraine.
While it is true that Paul Pogba, Mbappe and N’Golo Kante occupy most people’s lists of the tournament’s best players, so perhaps do Griezmann, Luka Modric, Ivan Rakitic, Samuel Umtiti and Raphael Varane. Depending on your preferences, there’s Diego Godin, Philippe Coutinho and Denis Cheyshev too.
It’s a timely reminder, for the surprisingly large number of people who need it, that there is life beyond Messi and Ronaldo. It’s not to say that this means a decisive shift — it would take a fool to suggest that Messi won’t be, well, Messi again this coming season — but it does mean that there other players worth watching and celebrating. And that’s before you even consider the likely moves between now and the end of the summer given Madrid and Barcelona’s voraciousness in the market.
Eden Hazard, Harry Kane, Neymar, Mbappe, James Rodriguez: at least one of them will be in Spain next year. “Cristiano left but others will come,” said Tebas.
Those that are already there have taken a step forward too, if not necessarily in play then certainly in the collective conscious.
In Griezmann’s case, if this is looked at from the perspective of the league (again, sorry about that) there is something extra as well. The World Cup final comes as reassurance for La Liga and offers another chance to expand and break the duopoly. This summer, he eventually made up his mind. He was not going to Barcelona, after all. He was staying at Atletico, the team who finished above Real last year: it was a choice symbolic of their growth and ability to resist, a trend towards the two further arrested by the club that has managed to change the shape of Spanish football.
A team with a World Cup finalist. A team that, like Madrid and Barcelona, will have a World Cup winner. Guaranteed. Atletico have four players in the final.
It’s not just about those two players, it’s not just about those two clubs either. For now, a little decorum, the focus where it is supposed to be: for now, it’s not about them at all. It’s about the World Cup final, as it should be, but when that finishes club football will be back in Spain. And while it might not be the same without Ronaldo, it will be every bit as good.
Sid Lowe is a Spain-based columnist and journalist who writes for ESPN FC, the Guardian, FourFourTwo and World Soccer. Follow him on Twitter at @sidlowe.
France midfielder Antoine Griezmann said it was “normal not to celebrate” his goal that helped knock Uruguay out of the World Cup in Friday’s quarterfinal.
Griezmann did not smile, or perform his trademark dance from the Fortnite game, after Uruguay goalkeeper Fernando Muslera spilled a long-range shot into the net in the 61st minute.
The French star has many close ties to Uruguay, to the point where midfielder Nahitan Nandez called him “half-Uruguayan” in the lead-up to the game.
He was also playing against his Atletico Madrid teammates Diego Godin — the godfather to Griezmann’s daughter — and Jose Maria Gimenez, and said it was emotional to take the pitch against them.
“I did not want to celebrate on the pitch — I am very happy, but also sad for my [Atletico] teammates,” Griezmann told TF1. “It was my first time against Uruguay, so there was plenty of emotion.”
Griezmann explained that he was mentored in the sport by a player from Uruguay and said: “I love Uruguayan culture and I love Uruguayans.”
He added: “I was also playing against friends, so out of respect I thought it was normal to not celebrate my goal.”
However, Uruguay striker Luis Suarez, who earlier this week rejected the “half-Uruguayan” term, wasn’t placated by Griezmann’s lack of celebration, saying: “he’s not Uruguayan, he’s French and he scored a goal.”
Griezmann was not too sympathetic towards Muslera over his error on France’s second goal.
“Was it hard for me to see the goalkeeper make a mistake? No, because it helped my team,” Griezmann said. “Whatever he meant to do, it worked out for France.
“Hugo [Lloris]’ save reminded me a bit of one he made against Germany. He is a great goalkeeper. He showed it once again — he has little to do but responds each time something is asked of him.”
Lloris, who made a dazzling first-half save to deny Martin Caceres, declared himself “proud to be French” on TF1.
“Great, once again — congratulations to everybody,” said the Tottenham shot-stopper. “We raised our level when we needed to, which shows the mentality of this team.
“The save was good, especially getting up fast to avoid the second chance. It was an important moment — I had to react.
“I am proud to be French, my teammates and I have realised something big — we are on our way.”
Raphael Varane, who scored the opening goal, was delighted to finally get service in the area that he wanted and is targeting ultimate World Cup success.
“This is pure joy – beautiful,” the Real Madrid man said to TF1. “I asked Antoine to put it where he did. It was a good moment to pick. I was asking for that all season, but it arrived at the right time, in a quarterfinal. Yes, we are looking to go all the way — that is what we came for.”
N’Golo Kante was busy in midfield again and revealed a happy dressing room atmosphere to TF1 after the result.
“It fills me with pride and is an honour to wear this shirt — we try to give everything,” said the Chelsea man. “The semi final will arrive soon, so we must recuperate.The dressing room is happy, because we enjoy these moments together.”
Kylian Mbappe was involved in a scuffle in the second half and picked up a booking, which Deschamps asked him about, and the Paris Saint-Germain is unafraid of coming up against teammate Neymar in a potential semi-final against Brazil.
“The coach asked me about the scuffle and I told him that I was calm, but that my opponent hit me,” Mbappe told TF1. “The coach always trusts me, and I try to reward his faith on the pitch — it is going pretty well.
“We already had strong links but winning is bringing us closer. Now comes the toughest part — the semifinal and the final.
“Neymar? That is not my problem. If it is Neymar, it is Neymar. If it is [Eden] Hazard, it is Hazard.”
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
Antoine Griezmann has revealed his ideal career path ends with him playing in Major League Soccer by the time he is in his early 30s.
The Atletico Madrid forward, 27, is well-known for his love of NBA and makes frequent trans-Atlantic trips at the end of the European football season to indulge his passion for basketball.
He may well do the same after France’s World Cup is over, and he told Le Figaro he is hoping to make a more permanent trip Stateside in the latter stages of his career.
“World champion, win a Champions League and then I can go and quietly play in the USA. That’s my ideal itinerary. It’s not bad, is it?” he said.
“If the plan goes like that, I’d sign for that now. I don’t know at which age I want to play in MLS, it’ll all depend on the trophies I’ll have won beforehand. When I’m nearer 32 or 33, I want to be there. I still have to be presentable on the pitch.”
Billed as one of the key players if the highly fancied French are to claim a second World Cup in Russia this summer, Griezmann has so far struggled to make an impact.
The former Real Sociedad striker admitted, however, he is fully focussed on helping his country scale to the summit of world football.
“Frankly, winning that competition with your country is the best thing possible. I want to finish my career with that trophy in my cabinet,” he said. “It’ll perhaps be this time, or the one after in Qatar. But I don’t want to finish my life as a footballer without that title among my honours. I think about it very often. It’s an obsession.”
While the World Cup is an immediate goal, Griezmann also said he could be tempted by the prospect of claiming an Olympic gold on home soil when the Summer Games are held in Paris in 2024.
“I would really like that, and that could be a dream. I experienced the Euros in France and it was the ultimate blast,” said Griezmann, part of the Les Bleus‘ squad that finished runners-up at Euro 2016.
“To experience that in 2024 at the Paris Games, I’d sign up for that now. It would be magnificent. Honestly, it could be one of the objectives for the end of my career.”
“Frustrated? No, I am used to playing like that…” Griezmann told journalists in the mixed zone. “At club level, we play that way often. It is true that it was not very pretty to see at the stadium or on TV — I am sorry for the people who expected lots of goals or nice moves, which was not the case here.
“We are through and we topped the group, that can be enough — or not. The reality is that no matter the team, you have to beat them to go all the way.
“We trust ourselves, we know that there are a few things to work on, but we are also confident.”
Olivier Giroud was in agreement with teammate Griezmann that it was not a classic encounter by any stretch of the imagination but told TF1 that France were not the ones guilty of leaving their best football at home.
“We are happy to have finished top and gone through in first place,” said the Chelsea striker. “Now, we must focus on our shortcomings here — especially from the second half.
“We know that we failed in attack, but if I may, for a really good match, there needs to be two teams wanting to play football.”
Deschamps was satisfied with the draw as it meant top spot in Group C and a meeting with Argentina, but the French tactician admitted to TF1 that his team’s momentum suffered as he made six changes to get more squad members a chance to play.
“We did more than Denmark, but at the end, the result was good for both teams,” Deschamps said. “It was complicated, every team in well prepared — it is not easy.
“The changes hurt the team’s momentum, yes, but at least everybody feels involved!”
Steve Mandanda replaced captain Hugo Lloris in goal and was delighted to keep a clean sheet on his World Cup debut and to keep Denmark’s danger man Christian Eriksen quiet.
“It is a great moment — we could only enjoy ourselves at the end, though,” the Marseille shot-stopper and recent Ligue 1 goalkeeper of the season told beIN Sports. “It was a good day for me, personally — it went well.
“I am satisfied, but we need to keep going. Keeping a player like Eriksen at bay feels good, mentally — we were solid and serious.”
Steven Nzonzi, who also made his full World Cup debut against the Danes, preferred to focus on the collective aspect and not the individual.
“I do not want to speak about things personally, rather collectively,” said the Sevilla midfielder. “I think that, once again, we showed that we are a solid team — the aim was to not concede.”
Jonathan Johnson covers PSG and the French national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @Jon_LeGossip.
Barcelona will speak with Gerard Pique about his involvement in a documentary which saw Antoine Griezmann reject an offer from the La Liga champions, but Victor Font believes it is the type of innovative thinking the club should embrace themselves.
Font, who hopes to succeed Josep Maria Bartomeu as president at the Barcelona’s next elections, says the club need to seek new ways to keep up with the ever-richer world of football.
Looking at the Pique situation from different perspective, Font feels Barca have wasted the “best-ever generation of footballers” by failing to lead the way with similar, insightful content during the last decade.
“[The Griezmann documentary] is very much that sort of thing which the club should be doing,” Font told ESPN FC when asked what he means when he accuses Barca of “missing an opportunity” to take advantage of the talent they have had this decade.
“Not that particular example, mind, because you play with emotions, but you can come up with creative content that can be very appealing to people and that people may be willing to pay for.
“That should be the club doing it, not one of the players or an external company. Obviously, an external company can also do the same, but on things that relate to the club — and therefore the club has control over — that’s where innovation should happen.”
Font will run to become president of Barcelona at the next elections in 2021, although his chance to replace Bartomeu may come earlier if the elections are brought forward, as is often the case.
He says there would be no perfect solution to creating content should he become president.
“No one has the magic formula just yet,” Font added. “It could be content which is open and made public — you just need to register on social media and so on — that is well-packaged and properly thought through.
“Or [it could be] easy to produce content, like behind the scenes material that maybe with some creativity you can come up with and someone on a subscription-based model would be paying €5 for per year.
“And now, seeing partnerships between clubs and production companies, like Netflix and Amazon, creating documentaries, short pieces of film… This could be interesting.
“Obviously, if Amazon does this, they’ll try to get the lion’s share of the money. But it’s about being proactive, taking some initiative and seeing how you can benefit the club. This is the type of innovation which technology allows you to do.”
The opportunity for innovation extends to business too, Font believes.
“It’s not only content, either,” he said. “[It’s about] re-thinking the business model even though the club has done well: they’re still top three every year [in revenue] as they grow and exploit the traditional model.
“They’ve opened a very small presence in Asia and the U.S. to try and sign regional sponsorship deals. But that has a limit; that has a cap. What has exponential growth potential is going direct to consumer because you have 400 or 500 million fans around the world. If you sell €5 a year [to each of them], that’s €2.5 billion.”
Font, who works in the telecoms, media and technology industries, believes it will be essential for Barcelona to make these changes and to lead the way if they want to continue competing in the post-Lionel Messi era.
“You need people on the board that know about the industry of entertainment, technology, digital, so that this business-to-business to business-to-business-consumer transformation becomes a reality and we can come up with innovative models and so on,” he says. “It’s like building a board for one of the top entertainment companies in the world.”
Samuel Marsden covers Barcelona for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @SamuelMarsden.
Atletico Madrid chief executive Miguel Angel Gil Marin said his club are considering reporting Barcelona for an illegal approach for Antoine Griezmann.
Barcelona’s board made a public attempt to persuade Griezmann to make a €100 million switch to the Camp Nou this summer, but the France international used a television documentary last week to announce his decision to sign a new deal that ties him to Atletico through 2022-23.
“We have proof of the contacts,” Gil Marin told Cadena Ser. “There is no doubt that Barcelona have interfered in talks between Atletico and a player who is under contract. Evidently, that is illegal, and we will weigh up whether or not to report Barcelona to the [Spanish football] federation.”
Atletico first grew angry at their Barca counterparts in December and then considered informing FIFA of a breach of transfer regulations — something that could have serious consequences considering Barca have been sanctioned for breaking youth transfer rules in the past.
Amid reports that Barcelona were not willing to match the €23m-a-year salary offered by Atletico, Gil Marin said it had been the chance to lead a “project” that had convinced the 27-year-old to stay.
“You do not convince people just with money,” Gil Marin said. “We sold him on being important in an ambitious project [at Atletico]. … At Barcelona, he was going to be a soldier for Leo Messi. It is true that [Messi] is the best player in the world and it is normal that anyone who goes there is to help him build his own story. Here, it is the other way around. Here, Antoine can build his history around the history of Atletico Madrid.”
Barcelona vice-president Jordi Mestre said Tuesday at the presentation of new technical secretary Eric Abidal that the club followed all appropriate protocols in their pursuit of Griezmann.
“As a club, we respect any player’s decision to decide their own future,” Mestre said. “We had officially informed Atletico Madrid of our interest in the player. Barca wants players who are committed and determined to triumph here, above and beyond any other circumstance.”
Griezmann also referred to the “project” when speaking to Atletico’s website about his decision.
“Since I arrived at the club, we have grown so much,” Griezmann said. “We have a brand new stadium that has been praised by everybody and which allows us to empower the growth of recent years. I love the project we are creating with great players. I thank the big effort the club are making. Miguel Angel Gil told me his ideas for the coming seasons and I got really excited. The project is incredible.”
Atletico have also agreed to sign Monaco winger Thomas Lemar in a reported €60m transfer and tie down another France international, Lucas Hernandez, to a long-term contract.
Hernandez pointed to Lemar’s arrival as an example of the efforts the club have made to compete at the highest level.
“The club have grown so much in the last years,” he told the club website. “We have a very important project. I am really enthusiastic about what we are preparing for the next season. Huge efforts are being made so that Atletico Madrid continue to grow and it’s something that all players are excited about. We have great players who stay for the project and others like Lemar who are attracted by those great possibilities that the club shows.”
Dermot Corrigan is a Madrid-based football writer who covers La Liga and the Spain national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @dermotmcorrigan