BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Barcelona has added a third star talent to its already world-class attack.
France forward Antoine Griezmann agreed to join the Spanish champions on Friday after Barcelona said it paid the buyout clause to free him from rival Atletico Madrid.
Griezmann will strengthen an attack led by Lionel Messi and Luis Suárez after agreeing to sign a five-year contract, the Spanish champions said. The 28-year-old Griezmann will most likely play on Barcelona’s left wing that has been vacant since the exit of Neymar two seasons ago.
Barcelona said it paid Atletico the 120 million euros ($134 million) to trigger his escape clause, and that his new buyout clause will be 800 million euros ($900 million).
Griezmann had a contract with Atletico until 2023 with a buyout clause of 200 million euros ($224 million), but the clause automatically fell to 120 million euros on July 1.
Atletico, however, said it will demand that Barcelona pay what it considers the full 200 million euros since “it is obvious the commitment between the player and the Football Club Barcelona predates the lowering of the clause.”
Griezmann announced in May he would not return to Atletico amid renewed speculation Barcelona was his destination.
A World Cup champion with France last year, Griezmann will give coach Ernesto Valverde a third true scorer with Messi and Suárez, in addition to young winger Ousmane Dembele.
Griezmann’s task will be to help Barcelona win the Champions League for a sixth time. Its last European title was in 2015, and the team collapsed in the second leg of last year’s semifinal when Liverpool overturned a 3-0 loss by dealing Barcelona a humiliating 4-0 defeat.
His arrival will likely dampen speculation that the club is interested in bringing back Neymar from Paris Saint-Germain.
It could also increase the chances that Barcelona will consider parting ways with Brazil attacking midfielder Philippe Coutinho, who has failed to meet the expectations generated by his club-record transfer in January 2018.
Born in Macon in eastern France, Griezmann moved to Spanish club Real Sociedad at age 14 to train at its youth academy. He debuted with its team four years later.
Griezmann joined Atletico from Sociedad in 2014 and quickly blossomed into one of the top scoring and playmaking talents in Europe.
In his five seasons for Atletico, he scored 133 goals and helped it win a Europa League title, a Spanish Super Cup and a UEFA Super Cup. His ability to score difficult goals, vision and speed were unique on an otherwise workmanlike squad. He also led his team to a Champions League final and runner-up finishes behind Barcelona for the last two seasons in the Spanish league.
Griezmann had been linked to Barcelona in recent transfer windows. Last season he even starred in a 45-minute documentary produced by a company owned by Barcelona defender Gerard Pique called “The Decision,” which ended with Griezmann turning down an offer to move to Barcelona and opting to stay at Atletico.
One year later, he changed his mind.
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