Connect in the back of the net

With the close of the summer transfer window came another piece of key La Liga news with Antoine Griezmann’s buy-out clause returning to its original value of £92 million.

As part of the contract extension agreement which kept the Frenchman out of Manchester United’s grasp this summer, the buy-out clause was temporarily raised to £183 million as a preventative measure to ward off potential suitors with what seemed like a ludicrous fee at the time.

This also helped Los Colchoneros, who were forced to work under a transfer ban and couldn’t have replaced him.

Griezmann showed loyalty to the club at a difficult time for them and as such that loyalty has been reciprocated with the club unlikely to stand in his way should he wish to leave next summer.

 

Market boundaries shifted

Unfortunately for both Atletico and perhaps Manchester United, the boundaries of the market have shifted since Neymar’s £204 million switch to Paris Saint-Germain.

It is worth remembering that when Jose Mourinho and Ed Woodward made the joint decision to pursue the Macon born forward as their primary summer target, it was before the window had even opened.

Those in power at Old Trafford have been monitoring market patterns in recent years and there has been an understanding behind the scenes that transfer fees could explode at any time. Mourinho was particularly prescient on this matter shortly after Paul Pogba’s arrival in 2016 for what was a world record £89 million.

“I am pretty sure that next summer players with only half his [Paul’s] quality will probably cost the same money or even more,” he explained.

As such the fact Griezmann had a set buy-out clause embedded into his contract was very attractive to the English club.

They didn’t want to get involved in an auction and furthermore the price couldn’t rise even if there were a number of interested parties. It was a deal that was very easy to take into consideration with regards to United’s wider plans and overall budget.

Now in theory this has not changed, the former Real Sociedad star will still cost £92 million and it will be a set figure, however given the way the market has changed there will undoubtedly be far more competition for the 26-year-old’s signature.

 

Game-changer

Neymar’s departure changed the game; we have since seen Kylian Mbappe join PSG for £165 million which is an obligation fee as part of his one-year loan deal in the French capital.

Now Mbappe is outstanding and has all the tools to win the Ballon d’Or in time, yet it must be remembered he is the second most expensive footballer of all time (in waiting), having only played little over 7 months of first-team football.

Ousmane Dembele is the third most expensive player ever with the transfer fee that facilitated his move from Borussia Dortmund to Barcelona having the potential to reach £138 million.

Again at 20-years-old the Frenchman has only two seasons of first-team football under his belt. Interestingly this isn’t necessarily an influencing factor in this specific case as he has excelled with every step up in his career but it does illustrate the scale with which the market has shifted.

 

More clubs set to seek his signature

Antoine Griezmann is a much better player in the current moment that those two aforementioned names. He carried France at Euro 2016 and has regularly excelled for Los Rojiblancos since his arrival.

It was unfortunate that he missed out on the Ballon d’Or in 2016 after a quite astounding calendar year and logic would suggest if any player was going to set such market records then it would be him.

Alas the previously agreed buy-out clause prevents this but you have to consider that given his set price, and how relatively reasonable it is, many more clubs will challenge United for his signature next summer.

Atletico Madrid aren’t helped either with the £92 million now likely to be stretched in their pursuit of a replacement.

Diego Costa is Diego Simeone’s first choice to replace Griezmann yet it is understood Chelsea will push for a fee close to the £60 million mark irrespective of his current relationship with Antonio Conte.

 

Reasonable price

At the start of the summer spending £92 million a single player would likely have been seen as a very high price indeed and Manchester United would have taken all the headlines, positive and negative, if the Griezmann deal had gone ahead.

Now just ask yourself, £92 million for the Frenchman in the current market? It’s very high but contextually somewhat reasonable.

Furthermore if you are Manchester City, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and Juventus this set fee becomes all the more attractive in an ever expanding fiscal ecosystem.

22, 22 and 16: This is the number of league goals scored by Griezmann in all of his three full seasons with the Madrid club. These statistics represent outstanding consistency and there is still the case to be made that at just 26, Griezmann is yet to enter his prime years.

 

Verbal agreement in place?

Predicting just what the market will do next is difficult, however it is quite logical to assume that whilst television revenues continue to rise and thus there is more money floating around European football, transfer fees will continue to rise or at the very least remain at the inflated level they are presently at.

Of course there is the possibility that Ed Woodward and co have recognised this and there is already a verbal agreement in place with representatives of the former Olympique Lyon schoolboy.

That isn’t known for sure but it is possible given the statement made by the player’s former agent, Eric Olhats, which intimated a move was almost a done deal this summer.

“Griezmann didn’t feel able to leave Atletico, he’s been integral to them and has shown his commitment at a time when they couldn’t sign players. Without the FIFA sanctions he would have gone.”

 

An attractive proposition

With clubs likely to be in search of a marquee star next summer, Griezmann is likely to be at the top of every shortlist across the continent.

His price is already set and is guarded against inflation and this is incredibly attractive to clubs in the current climate and we seem set for a transfer tug-of-war in 2018.

 

Written by Chris Winterburn

Follow Chris on Twitter @cmwinterburn

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