Despite winning the La Liga for the second season in a row, the season feels like a disappointment for Barcelona. Liverpool’s 4-0 win in the second leg of the Champions League semi-final has cast a dark shadow on the campaign. Coach Ernesto Valverde has come under criticism from the supporters, and rightly so. He deserves to be questioned, but he is not the sole person to blame.
Numerous players did not show up in the important games, mainly in the second leg against Liverpool. Arguably, one of them was Luis Suarez. The Uruguayan is clearly past his prime at this stage. His numbers are still high, but he could contribute more to assist Lionel Messi in the attack. Antoine Griezmann is rumored to be on the way to the Camp Nou, but nothing concrete has emerged yet. Could the Frenchman change Barcelona for the better?
Griezmann has made it clear that he will leave Atletico Madrid this summer. He has been in Madrid since 2014 when he signed from Real Sociedad. Griezmann has scored 133 goals for Atletico in 257 appearances. Considering the pragmatic system which coach Diego Simeone deploys, those numbers are highly impressive. He is comfortable playing as the lone striker of in the ‘number 10’ spot.
If he moves to Barcelona, he will most likely take the place of Luis Suarez. He will still play essential games for the club, but his starting place will be far from assured. Suarez scored 21 goals in the La Liga last season. His expected goals tally was 24.39, and he under-performed it by a healthy margin. Suarez’s finishing has not been consistent, and that was a major problem last season.
However, he has continued to score goals in domestic competitions. The Champions League has seen a different Suarez altogether. His last away goal in the tournament came in 2015 against Roma. He has scored just twice in the previous two seasons in the Champions League. This season he scored only once, against Liverpool in the first leg.
Griezmann scored 15 goals in the league this season, but he over-performed his expected goals tally. His record in Europe has been consistent, unlike Suarez. Griezmann has not played in a team which dominates possession for the last five years. He will get that in Barca, which will surely enable him to thrive. Reducing the burden on Messi’s shoulders is necessary, and Griezmann can assist in that. Barcelona’s over-reliance on Messi is evident, and despite the Argentine’s brilliance, they need another consistent performer in the attack.
The real deal is yet to go through, and other clubs are also interested in Griezmann. But Barcelona should go for the Frenchman without giving any other suitors a chance. Griezmann is a world-class striker, and Barcelona arguably lacked one last season. Barcelona has failed to cross the line in the Champions League the previous two seasons. With all due respect to Luis Suarez, Antoine Griezmann could be the man to push Barcelona over that line.