Griezmann thanks Barcelona for ‘another chance’ to join club

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — One year after publicly rejecting an offer to join Barcelona, France forward Antoine Griezmann put on his new blue-and-burgundy shirt and thanked the Spanish champions for giving him a second opportunity.

Griezmann signed his five-year contract with Barcelona on Sunday to complete his move from rival Spanish club Atletico Madrid.

After inking the deal, Griezmann told club president Josep Bartomeu “thanks for giving me another chance.”

Griezmann had openly flirted with joining Barcelona last year in a “behind-the-scenes” documentary that followed him for weeks as he contemplated the pros and cons of staying at Atletico or making the jump to Lionel Messi’s club.

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The 45-minute “The Decision,” which was produced by a company owned by Barcelona defender Gerard Pique, concluded with Griezmann accepting a new contract with Atletico, which also promised to provide him with teammates who could finally help him win an elusive major title.

But after another season finishing runner-up to Barcelona, Griezmann said it was now time to change his mind and make the leap to the five-time European champion.

“This year is different,” Griezmann said at a news conference at Camp Nou on Sunday.

Griezmann said that, other than being reluctant 13 months ago to uproot his family from Madrid, he also “wasn’t prepared to make that step and felt like I had something left to do at Atletico.

“This is a new challenge, a chance for me to improve, to not be complacent, to fight for a spot in the starting 11, to be an important player for this club, and to win a Liga, a Copa del Rey, and a Champions League, which are missing from my trophy case,” he said.

As for any Barcelona fans, or new teammates, who could still feel spurned by “The Decision,” Griezmann said that he was confident he could win them over.

“I have done some bad things in my past,” he said. “(But) I have never repented. (The documentary) was something that I wanted to do and thought should be seen. I didn’t toy with either (club). The important thing is that we are now together. If I have to ask anyone for forgiveness, I will do so on the pitch, where I speak the best.”

The 28-year-old Griezmann helped France to win the World Cup last year. In five seasons with Atletico, he scored 133 goals and won the Europa League, a Spanish Super Cup and a UEFA Super Cup. But there was also a lot of frustration at coming so close to even greater glory with a loss in a Champions League final and second-place finishes in the Spanish league.

Now Griezmann will go from being the leader of Atletico’s attack to becoming effectively a sidekick to Messi, and strike partner to Luis Suárez.

Griezmann had a contract with Atletico until 2023 with a buyout clause of 200 million euros ($224 million), but the clause automatically fell to 120 million euros ($134 million) on July 1.

Barcelona announced it had paid 120 million to free Griezmann from his contract on Friday. Atletico, however, is demanding that Barcelona pay the full 200 million euros because they believe that the player had already negotiated the move to Barcelona before July 1.

Bartomeu insisted Sunday that “there is nothing” to Atletico’s claim because he said Barcelona only contacted Griezmann’s agent after the player announced in May that he wanted to leave Atletico.

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