Antoine Griezmann, his coming of age and ability to be a World Cup wildcard

Breaking the established order of clubs in Spain is something of a nigh on impossible task given the perennial inclusion of Real Madrid and Barcelona at the top of the La Liga table.

As such Champions League qualification is eagerly contested by a handful of other sides, with the likes of ValenciaAtlético Madrid and Athletic Bilbao generally leading the pack behind the El Clásico powerhouses.

However, Real Sociedad defied the odds last season to finish in fourth place and make Europe’s top tournament. Despite being eliminated at the group stages and suffering a slow start to their domestic campaign, the San Sebastián outfit are in the running to finish in the top four once more this term – sitting in fifth at the time of writing.

Jagoba Arrasate has forged an enviable team spirit in his Sociedad side, with few superstars akin to the sides that surround them in the league table. However, one man has stood out over the last 24 months for the Estadio Anoeta side and has real star potential.

Antoine Griezmann was plucked from his homeland in France by the Spanish side as a 14-year-old and has developed into one of La Liga’s most exciting and devastating attacking players since.

Having come through the youth ranks in San Sebastián, Griezmann was handed his senior team debut in the 2009-10 campaign with Sociedad in the Segunda División.

Despite only being 18, the sprightly winger quickly established himself as a first-team regular and played an important role in Sociedad winning the division and promotion back to La Liga that year.

Griezmann’s technique on the ball, pace and trickery were apparent in La Liga almost immediately with the youngster clearly identified as a player with real talent.

Antoine GriezmannIn his first two seasons playing in the Spanish top flight his eye for goal became apparent also, with the French attacking midfielder netting seven goals in each campaign.

However, despite having real potential, it was only last season that Griezmann’s play progressed to the next level and he was widely acknowledged as Sociedad’s main attacking weapon.

Some scintillating performances for the Estadio Anoeta outfit and ten goals played their part in Sociedad finishing in fourth last season, with Griezmann’s strike in a 1-0 win against Deportivo La Coruña on the last day of the season securing the spot.

This season Griezmann has again looked like a real star as an omnipresent in the Sociedad team. Despite some of his performances in the Champions League not replicating his excellent domestic form, the just-turned 23-year-old is causing quite the stir in Spain and further afield.

In 24 starts this season Griezmann has netted 15 goals from midfield and has struck fear into opposition rearguards up and down the country.

Despite being based in Spain, Griezmann has been part of France’s youth level sides since 2010, stepping out and excelling for the under 19, 20 and 21 outfits.

His just reward for top form came earlier this year when Didier Deschamps selected the Sociedad star for the senior side, with Griezmann making his debut in a friendly victory over the Netherlands.

With the World Cup only a couple of months away, if the 23-year-old continues his excellent form he stands every chance of travelling to Brazil with Les Bleus, despite extreme competition for places.

His club future has consistently been an issue of consideration in the media, with plenty of Spanish and European scouts keeping tabs on the talented attacker.

Barcelona have been accredited with an interest in the star for a number of years, with Pep Guardiola publicly praising the Frenchman during his tenure at Camp Nou.

In recent times illustrious suitors from England, France and Italy have been added to his potential future options, with Sociedad surely starting to feel the strain in trying to keep their prize asset in San Sebastián.

Regardless of where he ends up, Griezmann’s coming of age over the last 18-24 months has been a joy to watch, with the gifted winger turning his considerable potential into performances of the highest order.

By
I am a freelance football journalist from Northern Ireland living in Broome in Western Australia. I have worked for top media outlets such as FourFourTwo, goal.com, Soccerlens, Football Fancast and Here is the City. I am a lifelong and long-suffering Tottenham fan. Follow me on Twitter at @90MinsOnline
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