Barcelona star Lionel Messi never wanted Antoine Griezmann to join the club back in the summer transfer window of 2019. And Tuesday night’s 1-1 draw with Eibar has shown the Argentina international was right. The 2018 World Cup winner toiled at the Nou Camp and looks a far cry from the player of old, with the Catalan giants’ hopes of winning the La Liga title all but over.
Back in 2019, Barcelona spent big.
Determined to win the Champions League under Ernesto Valverde after four years without the prize, the Catalan titans knew they needed strengthening.
Behind the scenes, Messi pushed for the signing of Neymar. Though the Brazil international had angered the La Liga titans by quitting for Paris Saint-Germain two years previously, Messi felt he’d be the right player to pursue.
In the end, however, Barcelona spent big on Griezmann instead.
They’d tried to sign the France international the previous year, only to end up missing out. This time around, Josep Maria Bartomeu was keen to land his man.
So Messi’s wish wasn’t granted. Neymar stayed at PSG and Griezmann moved in a huge £105million deal.
Afterwards, the Argentine admitted he’d have loved to have played with Neymar again. And he admitted he ‘didn’t know’ why the move never went through.
“The truth is I would have loved him to come back to us,” he said in 2019.
“I understand some people were against it and that’s normal considering everything that happened and how he left us, but thinking about it on a sporting level, for me Neymar is one of the best players in the world.
“Obviously he would have increased our chances of getting the results that we all want.
“The club would have taken a leap forward, in terms of sponsors, our image, our growth, but in the end it didn’t happen.
“I don’t know what happened with the directors, I know they were speaking with Neymar, he told me how things were going. He was really looking forward to coming back.
“I understand it’s difficult to negotiate with PSG and with Neymar because he’s one of the best. These negotiations are never easy.”
Messi has done his best to help Griezmann settle in.
But every attempt appears to have failed. Because, against Eibar on Tuesday in the absence of their inspirational skipper, Griezmann toiled again.
Gone are the days where the 29-year-old was regarded as one of the best players on the planet. He was anonymous against Eibar and it was no surprise when Ronald Koeman eventually brought him off.
He was given a lowly 5/10 by ESPN in their player ratings after the match and, currently, has been voted as the worst player on the pitch by followers of Spanish newspaper Marca.
Messi felt Neymar would have been a better addition than Griezmann.
And that looks right now, with the France international finding the net just three times from 14 league appearances this term.
There were hopes within Catalonia that, by giving Griezmann his favoured No 7 shirt at the start of the season, he’d get back to his best.
But that hasn’t happened and, at the current moment in time, it’s hard to see him lasting at the club for much longer.
Koeman, meanwhile, has all but written off Barcelona’s chances of title glory this term.
And he suggested Messi was missed, saying: “If I’m being realistic, winning La Liga will be very complicated.
“Nothing is impossible, but you have to recognise the distance. Atletico [Madrid] seems to me to be very good, very strong. They don’t concede many goals.
“We deserved to win, we did what we had to do. They had only one shot on goal. We created chances but we didn’t score the penalty and we made defensive mistakes.
“We did well, worked hard and did enough to win, but we didn’t. This is happening a lot.
“In the first half-half, we had problems getting the ball from behind and we weren’t looking for people between the lines, maybe out of fear of playing higher. We played a match with many opportunities but didn’t make them concrete.
“I don’t want to say we lacked experienced players. The team is in transition, and there are also injuries. Today there was five or six youngsters in the team but there was also a lot of experience.
“We lacked Leo, who is the difference maker, but the feeling is we don’t understand how it’s possible we didn’t win. We created many opportunities, missed a penalty and gave away the goal, which was their only shot on goal.”