Atletico Madrid are beginning legal action as they bid to put a halt to Barcelona’s swoop for the France international forward Antoine Griezmann.
World Cup winner Griezmann looks set to leave Madrid for Barca after the Catalan club announced they had paid his €120m buyout fee. France forward Griezmann, 28, rejected a move to Barcelona last year but announced in May that he was leaving Atletico, where he has spent the last five seasons since signing from Real Sociedad in 2014.
Barca have been trying to lure Griezmann to the Nou Camp since November 2017, but the forward signed a new five-year deal with Atletico in June 2018 that had a €200m buyout clause, which dropped to €120m on July 1.
But Atletico said Griezmann’s May 14 announcement that he was leaving the club is proof a deal had already been struck between the player and Barcelona before his buyout clause dropped.
“Atletico Madrid considers that the deposited amount is insufficient to cover (Griezmann’s) buyout clause, since it is obvious that the agreement between the player and FC Barcelona was closed before the clause was reduced from €200m to €120m,” the club said in a statement. “Atletico Madrid believes the termination of the contract happened before the end of the last season due to facts, acts and demonstrations made by the player, and therefore has already initiated procedures it has deemed appropriate to protect their rights and lawful interests.”
Last month Atletico Madrid chief executive Miguel Angel Gil Marin revealed he had known about the impending transfer since March.
Barca’s long-running pursuit of the Frenchman, who scored 133 goals in all competitions for Atletico, has been the worst-kept secret in Spanish football.
Barcelona say the 28-year-old will sign a five-year contract which ties him until June 30, 2024. Griezmann’s new contract contains a buyout clause of €800m.
The capture of the France striker adds further firepower to a Barca strikeforce already containing Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez and could yet be bolstered by the return of Neymar, who left the club for Paris St Germain in 2017 for a world record €222m.
Griezmann moved to Atleti from Real Sociedad in 2014 and helped the club win the Europa League in 2018, scoring twice in the final against Marseille.