[dropcap]A[/dropcap]fter last season’s heroics, 2014-15 was always destined to be an anti-climax for Atlético Madrid.
The current Spanish champions achieved the impossible last term by overcoming the El Clásico superpowers to top La Liga, despite a completely skewed playing field.
Diego Simeone’s men were also seconds away from becoming European champions in what was a fairytale campaign for the capital city side.
This season, following the departure of Diego Costa, Thibaut Courtois, Filipe Luis, David Villa and Diego, the fact that Atlético made it to the Champions League quarter-finals and are currently third in La Liga must be deemed as another successful campaign.
Simeone has had to reshuffle his pack, with player recruitment a key facet in the side’s continued place amongst Spanish football’s elite.
While the likes of Alessio Cerci and others failed to make an impact at the Estadio Vicente Calderón, there have been success stories too.
But none more-so than Antoine Griezmann.
The flying French forward has had a scintillating first season with Atleti and must be considered as one of the most devastating attacking players in European football as a result.
The former Real Sociedad star had been on collective radars for a number of years due to his rate of development in the first-team ranks at Anoeta, while last season his performances for the Basque club reached a crescendo.
The attacking midfielder’s 16 goals saw Griezmann receive national recognition and a call-up to the senior France squad, with outings at the World Cup as a result.
Last summer it was evident that the 24-year-old had outgrown his boyhood club, with a scramble for his services shrewdly won by Atlético.
Although clearly an international-quality player and someone who has all the attributes to be a devastating attacker, the manner of Griezmann’s performances this season and the instant adaptation to his new environment have been nothing short of astonishing.
To put this in perspective, Griezmann has become the top-scoring Frenchman in a single La Liga campaign ever; netting more than compatriot Karim Benzema has ever reached leading the line for Real Madrid for six seasons.
The France international’s 22 league goals are more than proven strikers Sergio Agüero or Fernando Torres netted over the course of one campaign at the Calderón. He has five games to score five goals to equal Diego Costa’s tally from last season.
As an attacking midfielder.
Griezmann’s trickery and speed have meant that he has been largely deployed as a winger over past seasons for club and country, but Simeone’s decision to use the 24-year-old centrally this season has been a masterstroke.
Fielded as a second striker behind either Mario Mandžukić or Torres, the French flyer has been afforded the luxury of a free role.
This has been key in continuing Atleti’s devastating ability to hit opposition on the break, while Griezmann has played an essential role in the side’s possession game as a result.
He has become the link between Atlético’s midfield and attack, with his clever movement off the ball making him hard to track.
Going forward, with Griezmann having time on his side, the sky is the limit for this scintillating French attacker.
Talk of being one of the best players in the world may well be premature currently, but if he continues on his current rate of trajectory Griezmann will have global superstardom in his midst before long.
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