The longer the season goes on the more it becomes clear just how unlucky Manchester United were last summer when their attempts at signing Antoine Griezmann were, in effect, scuppered by Fifa.
With four goals on Wednesday night against Leganes – making it seven in two games – he delivered the sort of performance that Atletico supporters will talk about for years to come. The range of finishing – left-foot, right-foot, free-kick and header – were a reminder of what a complete forward he is. How good would he have been at Old Trafford, cheering his pal Paul Pogba up and doing justice to the number 7 shirt that he had made little secret of wanting to wear.
When French television channel TMC’s presenter Yann Barthés asked him last summer: ‘Is there a chance you will play at United next season?’ and he replied: ‘It’s possible, yes,’ giving a six out of ten rating to the rumour. It was as unsubtle a ‘come-and-get-me’ plea as was possible.
Manchester United were unlucky to miss out on signing Antoine Griezmann last summer
All roads seemed to lead to Manchester. When he had played at Old Trafford for Real Sociedad back in 2013 he was so in awe of the place he had his video camera out before the game filming the stadium. His brother Theo follows United and had taken Antoine to watch them in 2012. His former advisor Sebastien Bellencontre said in an interview that the next step for Griezmann was to wear the famous red number 7.
The only thing that could stop the move was the very thing that happened next. The Court of Arbitration upheld a Fifa ban on Atletico registering new players because they had broken rules over signing under-age players. The Spanish club could not sign anyone and for the Griezmann deal was stopped in its tracks.
Atletico had to ensure that if they could not bring anyone in, then at least no one left. Especially not their best player. Griezmann’s representative Iñaki Ibañez sat down with Atletico’s chief executive Miguel Angel Gil and he was given a sizeable salary increase bumped up to around €14m net a season with his €100m buy-out doubled.
The new deal worked out at around €270,000 a week net and although United, could still comfortably compete with that they could not pay the €200m buy-out clause as well. What is more the player was no longer willing to leave.
Atletico Madrid's ban on registering new players stopped any Old Trafford deal in its tracks
Griezmann scored four on Wednesday night against Leganes – making it seven in two games