With France aiming to back up their 2018 World Cup win with success at this summer’s European Championships, it’s fair to say that they’ll need all their best players fit and firing throughout the tournament. The likes of Kylian Mbappé, Paul Pogba, Hugo Lloris and Raphaël Varane will all be relied on heavily to deliver the goods and bring the trophy back to Paris.
Another player France depend on is Antoine Griezmann, who has been such an important player for the national team over the last seven or eight years. During his days at Atlético Madrid, Griezmann was a goal machine, and more often than not he carried that form onto the international scene, demonstrating his unique ability to both score and assist goals.
Despite his relatively small stature, he is a player who boasts more physicality than one might assume, and is adept at getting on the end of crosses or indeed muscling past a defender to get his shot away. You only have to look at his performances at Euro 2016, where he was top scorer with six goals as France reached the final, to understand how good he can be on his day.
However, it’s no secret that Griezmann has not enjoyed the best time of things over the past couple of seasons. He moved to Barcelona in the summer of 2019, but he has not been able to produce the same stellar form at the Camp Nou as he did for Atlético Madrid, and that has led to frustration in all quarters.
It’s been a strange time to play for Barcelona. Off-field power struggles and ever-increasing debt have seen a one-time powerhouse of European football crumble to its knees somewhat. The Lionel Messi transfer saga last summer was an unseemly sight for all concerned with Barcelona, and the team have failed to land the La Liga title for a second successive year.
It’s hard to pin Barcelona’s on-pitch disappointments on Griezmann, who has never shirked responsibility, but it’s certainly true that a club embroiled in various difficulties does not bring the best football out of its players. Griezmann has perhaps struggled with the pressure at times, and there is a sense that Barcelona’s squad is a touch imbalanced, with plenty of riches going forward but not much talent and depth in defensive areas.
The upcoming European Championships allows Griezmann to escape the Barcelona fug and play with the kind of freedom that defines his best performances. Despite the fact he scooped the Golden Boot and Best Player award at Euro 2016, he is a relative outsider in the Euro top scorer odds, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him notch a few goals to reassert his reputation as one of Europe’s best attacking players.
Although France performed wonders in winning the 2018 World Cup, they may well feel that they have unfinished business in the European Championships. The defeat to Portugal in the final of Euro 2016 would have hurt massively, particularly as the tournament was played on home soil. There will be a real energy in the side geared towards putting things right this time, and Griezmann will have a massive role to play in that.
Euro 2020 will give us a keen insight into whether Griezmann is still the dominant player that has performed to such high levels for France in the past, or if his best days are now behind him.