Antoine Griezmann returns to his native France for the UEFA Europa League final; UEFA.com polishes a shrine in his honour.
What they say
“Antoine has improved in every area – fitness, tactical awareness, personality, aggression, intensity, ball recovery, attacking threat – and it’s all his own doing.”
Diego Simeone, Atlético coach
“Antoine is one of the best players in the world. He’s an intelligent, cunning and very talented footballer. He’s also really good in the air. You have to keep a close eye on him because he has the ability to lose you at any moment. We have to keep track of his movement if we want to win.”
Adil Rami, Marseille defender
“‘Grizou’ will obviously be danger number one for us, and their main offensive weapon.”
Dimitri Payet, Marseille playmaker
“He’s always happy, he’s a delight to have as a player. Despite the pressure on him, he’s always smiling, looking to have fun, and it’s a breath of fresh air.”
Philippe Montanier, former Real Sociedad coach
“He’s very ambitious, and if you have talent and ambition, and everything goes your way and you have a bit of luck, you can go as far as you want.”
Emilio Nsue, former Real Sociedad team-mate
International: 51 appearances, 19 goals
UEFA club competition: 55 appearances, 22 goals
Domestic competition: 353 appearances, 140 goals
Claims to fame
• Griezmann had already been turned down by several French clubs when Frenchman Éric Olhats, a Real Sociedad scout, spotted the 13-year-old at a tournament near Paris. “I saw him control and pass the ball – it looked so easy. So I asked myself: ‘How good could he be once his body develops?'” Olhats duly took him to San Sebastian.
• He received an interesting Zinédine Zidane souvenir after a Real Sociedad v Real Madrid game when he was a ball boy. “I asked for his shirt but he had already swapped with an opponent,” Griezmann wrote in his 2017 autobiography. “Seeing my disappointment, he said: ‘Follow me.’ I walked with him into the belly of the stadium. I thought he would give me a photo or autograph, something like that. But no – Zidane handed me the shorts in which he had played. I couldn’t believe it!”
• He celebrated his first Liga goal – a spring-heeled header against Deportivo on 25 October 2010 – by dashing into a car located pitchside and pretending to drive it away.
• By featuring in a 2-0 victory at Rayo Vallecano on 14 April 2013, he became the fifth youngest player to make 100 professional appearances in Spain’s top flight – aged just 22 years and 24 days.
• Match winner in the 1-0 success at Deportivo on 1 June 2013 which earned La Real’s UEFA Champions League qualifying spot, Griezmann promptly sealed their return to the group stage – for the first time since 2003/04 – with an overhead kick against Lyon (whom he had supported as a boy). His first club goal in his home country.
• Atlético triggered Griezmann’s €30m buy-out clause to entice him from San Sebastian in summer 2014, coach Simeone saying: “Antoine is a brilliant player. He’s really quick and he’ll give us lots of options in attack.”
• Griezmann never scored a UEFA Champions League group stage goal for La Real but did so at the first attempt for Atleti, in a 3-2 defeat at Olympiacos on 16 September 2014, 30 minutes after emerging as a substitute.
• His 22 Liga goals in his first Atlético campaign was a record for a French player in Spain; he matched it in 2015/16, but Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema took his record with 24 goals. Simeone was not concerned, saying of ‘Grizi’: “For me, he was the best player in Europe this season.”
• He caught Luis Aragonés as the Rojiblancos’ top marksman in the UEFA Champions League/European Cup when netting his 12th Atlético goal in the competition in a 2-0 scalp of PSV on 23 November 2016.
• The forward eclipsed Sergio Agüero as Atleti’s leading scorer in all UEFA competitions by notching his 21st continental goal in Atlético colours against Arsenal in the recent UEFA Europa League semi-final.
• Griezmann claimed his first international honour when France triumphed as hosts in the 2010 UEFA European Under-19 Championship, though he came off injured at half-time in the 2-1 final win against Spain. “That was a big moment for me,” he recalled. “But I said to myself, ‘OK, you’re in the U19s now but you need to push on to the national team, keep working hard and keep believing in the big dream.'”
• He was suspended from all France squads from November 2012–December 2013 after joining four other players – Yann M’Vila, Chris Mavinga, Wissam Ben Yedder and M’Baye Niang – on an unauthorised trip from the team hotel in Normandy to a Paris nightclub three days before a U21 play-off against Norway. “My father reminded me that a footballer’s image is very important and I mustn’t damage the family name,” he said later. “I’m lucky my parents raised me well.”
• He picked up his first Les Bleus cap in the 2-0 victory over the Netherlands on February 2014, his first national service after the ban was lifted.
• His six goals secured the golden shoe at UEFA EURO 2016, though it was a bittersweet experience as hosts France lost the final 1-0 to Portugal. “Maybe later I can feel proud,” he said.
• Griezmann was the first player to lose a EURO final and a UEFA Champions League decider in the same summer, the Portugal defeat following Atlético’s shoot-out reverse to Real Madrid (in which Griezmann converted from the spot). Pepe and Cristiano Ronaldo were on the winning side in both games.*
What you might not know
• Football is in his blood. His maternal grandfather Amaro Lopes played for local team Paços de Ferreira in his native Portugal before moving to France for work. His mother, Isabelle, was born in France but the link to Portugal remained, Griezmann spending summer holidays back in his grandfather’s home town.
• His big sister Maud was the young Antoine’s goalkeeper whenever he practised shooting as a child. She remembers her brother repeatedly battering a ball against the garage door of the family home to perfect his touch, noting: “My parents did not always like this.”
• Having been in Spain since he was 13, Griezmann says he has taken on certain Spanish traits, explaining: “I think in French but get angry in Spanish.”
• While he loves football and frequently comments on social media about matches he is watching, soccer is not the only sport Griezmann is crazy about. Despite his relatively modest height, he is a huge basketball fan and often plays in his spare time.
• Griezmann’s tattoos include an Arabic translation of a line from Antoine De Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince (“make your life a dream, and make your dream a reality”), images of Jesus and the Virgin Mary, his parents’ initals and ‘FAME’, the title of a Chris Brown album – the initials stand for Forgiving All My Enemies and Fans Are My Everything.
• Rapper Drake inspired a Griezmann goal celebration: the ‘two mobile phone’ move derives from the Hotline Bling video, though Griezmann did not use it consistently at UEFA EURO 2016. “I forgot to do it after my goal against Albania because I was too emotional.”
• He has had a special affinity with his South American club-mates, notably sipping a cup of regional hot drink ‘mate’ wherever he goes. “It’s like tea or coffee,” he said. “I drink it all the time before training. It wakes me up.”
Mate vs Froid 😏💪 pic.twitter.com/ANOLxiyPRe
— Antoine Griezmann (@AntoGriezmann)
December 2, 2016
What he says
“I try to be a complete player – in attack and defence – and to improve every year. I’ve already got more assists this year and that’s the most important thing.”
“When I’m on the pitch I enjoy myself and try to give my all. My team-mates, the boss and the fans want more from me and I’m pleased about that. It’s like when you played on the street with your friends. Now every time I score, I turn into a little boy again. It’s impossible to explain how happy scoring makes you.”
“If I want to be the next Falcao or the next Agüero at Atlético, I know I’ve still got a lot to do. But the coach gives me a lot of confidence and tells me I’m an important player. He also says I have to do better than I’ve ever done before!”
What he might achieve yet
• Break the 22-goal barrier: he had his best domestic campaigns with 22 goals in 2014/15 and 2015/16 but has been unable to hurdle the 20 barrier since. Griezmann has netted 19 so far this season, with one more Liga fixture (v Eibar) to follow the UEFA Europa League final.
• Win a major trophy with Atlético: to date, his biggest achievement is lifting the 2014 Spanish Super Cup.
• Make up for the disappointment of UEFA EURO 2016 by winning the 2018 FIFA World Cup with France.
• Become France’s all-time leading scorer: he is joint-15th in the rankings with 19 goals. Thierry Henry’s record of 51 seems a long way off but Griezmann is a player who likes a challenge.
• Henry’s other French goalscoring records are not beyond the realms of possibility. The ex-Arsenal ace is the top-scoring Frenchman in the UEFA Champions League/European Cup (51) and all UEFA club competitions (59); Griezmann has hit 18 in the former and 22 in the latter.
* Twelve players have been on the losing side in European Cup/UEFA Champions League and World Cup finals in the same summer: Nils Liedholm (Milan & Sweden, 1958), Wolfgang Dremmler, Paul Breitner, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge (Bayern & West Germany, 1982), Demetrio Albertini, Roberto Donadoni, Paolo Maldini, Daniele Massaro (Milan and Italy, 1994), Carsten Ramelow, Bernd Schneider (Leverkusen & Germany, 2002), Thierry Henry (Arsenal & France, 2006) and Arjen Robben (Bayern & Netherlands, 2010)
In the 2002 World Cup final, Germany’s Carsten Ramelow and Bernd Schneider once more lost to Brazil’s Roberto Carlos, the players having met in the 2002 UEFA Champions League final, where Madrid beat Leverkusen.