Manchester United have cooled their interest in Antoine Griezmann, with the Europa League winners prioritising a striker rather than a No. 10 this summer.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s long-term injury has led to a change in strategy for this summer’s transfer window, with the Atlético Madrid forward no longer an option. That does not mean, however, that United may not return and try to sign him in the future.
United have been linked with a move for Griezmann for quite some time and the Frenchman, considered by some to be the third best player in the world after Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, said last week that he had a six out of 10 chance of moving to Old Trafford in the summer.
“Today, if I have to move, it will not be a problem for me,” he said. “It may be England, which is in fashion, Germany, China or the United States, I’m ready to go. We finished third in La Liga, it was the objective of the club, but we, the players, want more.
Winning titles is what I will look for this summer when deciding on my future.” Goalscoring was one of United’s main problems in a league campaign that saw them finish sixth, having scored 31 goals fewer than the champions, Chelsea. José Mourinho is keen to bring Romelu Lukaku to United but faces competition from, among others, Chelsea for the forward’s signature.
Real Madrid’s Álvaro Morata is another option currently under consideration. Atlético, meanwhile, have lost their appeal against a transfer ban that is preventing them from signing any new players until January 2018. The ban strengthens their need to keep hold of Griezmann but weakens their ability to do so – they will find it far harder to persuade him to stay.
If a club pay his €100m (£87m) release clause, Atlético will not be able to do anything to prevent his departure. Griezmann has delivered contradictory messages over the last six months but he has listened to offers from a handful of clubs.
The 26-year-old has talked about his desire to win trophies, explicitly encouraging Atlético to make signings to strengthen the side if they are to have any chance of convincing him to stay.
That is now impossible, this summer at least. Any new contract Atlético offer will address only part of the player’s ambitions. Signings are more important and the package some clubs are able to offer cannot be matched by his current club. At €100m, Griezmann would be expensive, the third most costly player in history, but he is affordable.
Any club who wish to sign him know that if they pay the release clause, the deal can be completed unilaterally. Griezmann had hoped to avoid that eventuality, claiming that his future lay in the hands of Atlético’s president, Enrique Cerezo.
Although it is complex, the clause offers a way of completing a transfer against Cerezo’s wishes, if Griezmann and United are prepared to push that through.