MADRID: French striker Antoine Griezmann has told Atletico Madrid he will leave them in the close season, the Spanish club said on Twitter on Tuesday.
The 28-year-old Griezmann has a contract until 2023 with Atletico, but has a buyout clause of 120million euros ($134million) and has been the target of several approaches from La Liga rivals Barcelona.
“Antoine Griezmann has told the club he will not continue as a Rojiblanco [red and white, the club’s colours] next season,” the club said on Twitter.
Within a few moments the player then posted a video explaining himself.
“After speaking with Cholo [club coach Diego Simeone], then with Miguel Angel and the people in the hierarchy of the club I wanted to speak with you, the fans, who have always given me a lot of love,” said Griezmann, wearing a plain black t-shirt in front of a simple white background behind him.
“I wanted to tell you I have taken the decision to leave,” said the French 2018 World Cup winner.
“I have had five wonderful seasons here and you will always be in my heart,” said the affable forward known for doing dances from the video game Fortnite, when celebrating his goals.
“The truth is it has been difficult to take this route but it is what I feel I need and I would like to thank all of you for the love you have shown me during these five years.”
With 133 goals in 252 games at Atletico the attacker has been ever-present and has rarely been unfit or injured.
He was a Champions League runner up in 2016, losing to arch-rivals Real Madrid. In 2018 however Atletico beat Marseille in the Europa League final.
Griezmann finished third for the Ballon d’Or in 2016, after France lost in the final to Portugal at the European Championships and was a huge presence as Les Bleus romped to a memorable World Cup win at Russia 2018 after which he also finished third for the Ballon d’Or.
Griezmann rejected an offer from Barca last June, documenting his internal struggles about whether to make the move in a landmark documentary called ‘The Decision’, produced by Barca defender Gerard Pique’s Kosmos production company.
Griezmann is the latest high profile player to announce that he is leaving Atletico at the end of the season.
France defender Lucas Hernandez agreed to join Bayern Munich when they paid his 80-million euro release clause and long-serving captain Diego Godin’s contract is coming to an end.
Atletico’s final match of the season is Sunday at Levante. They finished second to Barca in La Liga for a second straight season.
Published in Dawn, May 16th, 2019