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Why does Griezmann never enter the field before the 60th minute at Atlético?

According to the loan deal agreed by Barcelona and Atlético, the Madrid club only have to pay €40m for Griezmann if he plays 50% of available games.

Griezmann playing part-time to thwart Barça purchase clause
BSR AgencyGetty

Details of Antoine Griezmann’s loan contract have been reported in Spain, where broadcaster Cadena Ser has had access to the agreement between Barcelona, the France striker’s parent club, and Atlético, who sold him to Camp Nou in 2019 after Barça activated his release clause, which was reportedly set at €120 million after being reduced from €200m on 1 July. Griezmann returned to Atlético on loan two years later on a one-year deal, with the option of another season and an obligatory €40m purchase clause inserted into the arrangement, which was to be activated before 2023.

However, according to the report, Atlético only have to pay Barcelona €40m if the terms of the contract regarding Griezmann’s time on the pitch are met. The deal between the clubs states that the purchase clause will only be activated if Griezmann plays in 50% of the available games during the two-year period of his loan. Last season, the forward was injured but also featured in plenty of games under Diego Simeone. As the 2022-23 campaign gets underway, Atlético’s bean counters have pulled out a calculator and worked out how often Simeone can field Griezmann without triggering the clause.

Atlético playing hardball over Griezmann

Atlético offered Barça €20m this summer to make the deal permanent but this was refused by the Camp Nou board, who pointed to the terms of the contract. In response to Barcelona’s perceived lack of willingness to meet them halfway, Atlético have also read the fine print and are now working the details of the deal to their advantage to avoid paying the full €40m.

In terms of playing time, the solution for Atlético is quite simple. It makes no difference if Griezmann starts a game or is introduced from the bench: if he plays 45 minutes or more, it is counted as a game. That is why this season Simeone has been sending Griezmann on after the 60-minute mark. As such, the Metropolitano money men are able to calculate how many games it is considered Griezmann has participated in over the two-year loan period, and to ensure he does not reach the stipulated 50%.

Using this method, Atlético have managed to ensure that Griezmann has not played a game this season that will count towards the total in the contract. In LaLiga he has not played more than half an hour in any one fixture (Getafe 28′, Villarreal 28′, Valencia 26′, Real Sociedad 27′ and Celta 27′) and Atlético have applied the same formula in the Champions League (Porto, 29′, Leverkusen 27′). According to the Cadena Ser report, Simeone is fully supportive of Atlético’s stance and will continue to use the Frenchman sparingly to avoid the club having to pay Barça the purchase clause.