FC Barcelona was in no way required to release any sort of official statement on Saturday. It had no new signing to announce. It hadn’t hired or fired a high-ranking official. None of its players had been diagnosed with a serious injury.
Nonetheless, early in the afternoon, we got one. Barcelona wants us all to know that it has definitely not agreed to sign Atletico Madrid forward Antoine Griezmann this summer.
“FC Barcelona strongly denies the information that has appeared over the course of the last few hours in different media regarding Atletico Madrid player, Antoine Griezmann, and an alleged deal with our club.” the statement read. “FC Barcelona expresses its objections in the face of these events and reiterates its full respect for the institution of Atlético Madrid.”
The statement is a reaction to a report from Spanish outlet Sport that claims Barcelona has a “secret pact” with Griezmann. The reported pact stipulates that Barcelona will buy Griezmann this summer – the French star will have a $122.3 million release clause – and that Griezmann will sign a contract with Barca. If either side backs out, there are reportedly financial punishments written into the pact.
So Barcelona’s denial didn’t materialize out of nothing. But it’s nonetheless curious. Where were similar denials when Philippe Coutinho had reportedly agreed to a deal with Barcelona last summer? Barca never felt the need to refute countless other wild reports that have appeared in the Spanish media in the past.
Why, then, has this report produced one?
Might it have nothing to do with the veracity of the report, and everything to do with a complaint that Atletico Madrid filed to FIFA last month about Barcelona’s very public pursuit of Griezmann?
Executives at the two clubs have maintained amicable relationships in the past. But now things are on edge. Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu reportedly met with Griezmann’s family. Another Barca director, Guillermo Amor, didn’t exactly deny those reports at the time.
It is very possible, and perhaps likely, that Griezmann will join Barcelona in the summer, when his release clause is slashed from $244.5 million to $122.3 million. The biggest impediment to the deal might be Barcelona’s sloppiness in negotiations.
The statement, more than anything else, is an attempt to appease Atletico, mend any ill will expressed by the FIFA complaint, and prepare for a summer swoop – whether reports of the pact are true or not.
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