New challenge at Barcelona set to be the toughest yet for Griezmann

Antoine Griezmann scored 94 in 180 league games for Atletico after joining from Real Sociedad in 2014. He expects his numbers to soar in the coming days. (AFP)
Updated 13 July 2019
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New challenge at Barcelona set to be the toughest yet for Griezmann

  • Frenchman consolidates his place as ‘one of the best players in the world’

MADRID: Antoine Griezmann is likely to win the titles at Barcelona so far lacking in his club career but leaving Atletico Madrid brings few other guarantees, even for one of the world’s most talented players.
Griezmann’s long-anticipated move to the only team that finished above Atletico last season was confirmed on Friday, his €120-million ($135 million) release clause activated and a five-year contract signed.
“With his arrival,” Barcelona said in a statement on their website, “the Frenchman takes another step forward in his career with the goal of consolidating his place as one of the best players in the world.”
For Atleti, meanwhile, another star is lost and their hopes of absorbing this latest, and perhaps most crushing, departure of the close season may rest on the shoulders of 19-year-old Joao Felix, their €126-million arrival from Benfica.
Their fury at the manner in which the Griezmann deal was conducted was laid bare in a statement claiming the fee paid was “insufficient” and indicating they should be entitled to €200 million — the value of his release clause before the end of last month.
It means the saga is not over yet, but Atletico are used to adjusting. In contrast, at 28, Griezmann now faces the biggest challenge of his career, which boasts last year’s World Cup triumph with France, yet still not a single league title.
In that way, Barcelona, who have won La Liga eight times in the last 11 seasons, are something of a sure bet, so much so that finishing top of the table is no longer a barometer for success.
Instead, their Champions League humiliation by Liverpool might have been persuasive in going again for a player who not only rejected them last year but embarrassed them, his decision revealed at the end of a television documentary.
“My fans, my team, my home: Atletico Madrid,” Griezmann said then.
Josep Maria Bartomeu, Barcelona’s president, might have been able to forgive but the last few months would suggest others will need convincing.
When Atletico played at the Camp Nou in April, Griezmann was whistled by some Barcelona fans. When he went to take a corner, the chant came: “Griezmann, get out of the Camp Nou.”
The players were asked too, their responses coming back curt and irritable.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Atletico Madrid’s fury is at the manner in which the Griezmann deal was conducted was lies bare in a statement claiming the fee paid was ‘insufficient.’

• For Atleti, another star is lost and their hopes of absorbing this latest departure of the close season may rest on the shoulders of 19-year-old Joao Felix.

“I have no opinion,” said Lionel Messi. Gerard Pique, who was involved in the production of Griezmann’s documentary, was asked if he would take part in another this summer. “No, I won’t,” he said. “One was enough.”
Grudges can be quickly forgotten in football, by team-mates particularly, and when performances are good, by supporters too. But it could also swing the other way if he suffers a slow start.
The risk for Barcelona is small. Coach Ernesto Valverde needs to reduce his reliance on Messi and Luis Suarez for goals, particularly in the Champions League, where Suarez remains inexplicably inefficient.
Griezmann scored 94 in 180 league games for Atletico after joining from Real Sociedad in 2014 and could expect his numbers to soar in a team where chances are more frequent and defensive duties less demanding.


England celebrate World Cup triumph with young fans

Updated 15 July 2019
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England celebrate World Cup triumph with young fans

  • After 44 years of trying, England became world champions with a stunning victory over New Zealand

LONDON: England revelled in their first World Cup triumph on Monday, soaking up the adulation of a disbelieving nation after one of the most extraordinary finishes to a cricket match in history.

The host country, after 44 years of trying, finally became world champions with a stunning victory over New Zealand at Lord’s, triumphing on superior boundary count after both the match and the additional Super Over shootout ended with the scores level.

The game was watched by the biggest audience in a generation, with around 30,000 packed into Lord’s, thousands congregating in front of a big screen in Trafalgar Square in central London and the first free-to-air terrestrial coverage in 14 years.

Hundreds of children flooded across the outfield at the Oval — across town from Lord’s — to help Eoin Morgan’s men celebrate their historic triumph. The south London ground was where England launched their World Cup campaign with a victory over South Africa way back on May 30.

Many of the young children at the Oval were wearing the kit of the All Stars junior program run by the England and Wales Cricket Board and others were dressed in their school uniforms.

As “Happy” by Pharrell Williams blared out, the youngsters were delighted to catch sight of England stars such as Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler and Jofra Archer and flocked toward their new heroes.

It was a more modest celebration than the open-topped bus parade through the streets of London for England’s 2005 Ashes victors but was in keeping with the push to sell the game to a new generation.

“I don’t know if it’s sunk in yet but coming down here and seeing what a small portion of the support we’ve had feels about it, the kids, the adults, the energy they all had for what they saw yesterday is amazing,” said man-of-the-match Stokes.

England coach Trevor Bayliss, drafted in with the aim of winning the World Cup following their miserable first-round exit at the 2015 tournament, said: “I heard some of the young guys in the team say the 2005 Ashes inspired them to bigger and better things.

“I think they are very proud they’ve been put in a position where they can hopefully inspire a few of the next generation.”

On Sunday the Queen sent her congratulations to England and the Royal Mail postal service announced it would issue a series of special stamps and decorate 15 post boxes to celebrate both the World Cup win and England’s victory at the 2017 Women’s edition of the tournament.

Prime Minister May, a lifelong cricket fan, was due to host the team at a reception.

“Yesterday (Sunday) was a brilliant performance by a brilliant team,” said May. “They showed flair, courage and an absolute determination to become world champions.

“The achievement, delivered in such a thrilling style on home soil, will live forever in our sporting history.”

“It’s also exciting to think just how many children will be inspired by this victory to pick up a bat for the first time and hopefully become the great cricketers and World Cup winners of tomorrow,” she added.

“We must build on this success.”