Antoine Griezmann and Lionel Messi: are they compatible on the pitch?

Griezmann's best form has come playing off a main centre forward, similar to the role Messi currently occupies

Griezmann entiende que Messi y Suárez estén enfadados, aunque cree que todo se soluciona en el campo | Rubén Moreno

With Antoine Griezmann's arrival at Barça, it allows for a lot more options in attack. He's able to fill in anywhere across the traditional 4-3-3 but he's enjoyed the most success when he's been granted greater freedom.

Dídac Peyret


The Griezmann we saw emerge at Real Sociedad looks nothing like the one we saw week in, week out with Atletico Madrid. His evolution is similar to that of Lionel Messi.

Both initially started as wingers but found greater success moving further central and being involved more in the team's overall play.

"If today I'm considered one of the best in the world, when it comes to first-touch football, I owe it to La Real. Either way, I've never been a dribbler, not even when I played with my friends. I prefer to sit back and watch how the play develops."

That is how Griezmann plays. He isn't a natural dribbler but he's got a fantastic touch which helps when he gets into positions to shoot on goal. He's produced his best performances when working alongside a natural striker, a pure number nine. Griezmann has succeeded alongside Costa and Giroud next to him. At Barça, he'll have Luis Suarez.

Griezmann, primeros días de blaugrana | AFP

That's where he developed and improved, playing between the lines of attack and midfield. With the freedom to pop up anywhere across the pitch. He struggled to have the same impact when used as the main striker by Diego Simeone or starting out on the wing.

Barça will represent a big challenge for Griezmann. He will no longer be the reference point in attack. The forward will need to adjust to a new system, very different to the one he learnt at Atletico Madrid, and he'll probably be involved less than usual. Coutinho knows all about that as he struggled to lock down the left-hand side of the attack.

It's a challenge for Ernesto Valverde too because Griezmann would naturally prefer to play in the same spaces that Messi occupies. Picking up the ball in dangerous areas to find his teammates in and around the penalty box.

In Griezmann's press conference, Abidal said this about his fellow countryman: "He can play it quickly but also knows how to slow it down and keep hold of the ball. Technically he's better than most and is very intelligent on the pitch." Griezmann with need to adapt to Barça's style and 'fit' alongside Messi.

The French forward is likely to begin on the left of the attack, where Jordi Alba and Messi have an almost telepathic connection.

Valverde could also deploy Griezmann as the main striker as an alternative to Suarez. But we saw how difficult Griezmann found it in that role for Atletico.

Barcelona tend to use 4-4-2 or 4-3-3 but that role just behind the main striker won't be reserved for Griezmann. He'll need to go back to that dangerous wide man role, taking advantage of the passes into him behind the defence rather than being so involved in the build-up aspect.    


Griezmann's role could also change dramatically if Neymar does eventually join Barça this summer too. It would almost certainly signal the end of Coutinho's time at the club. 

This could see Valverde perhaps opt for 4-2-3-1 in order to fit all four of his superstar signings into the same team. Griezmann is also someone who needs to feel valued and wanted by his teammates and coach when he's feeling down.

At both Real Sociedad and Atletico, he found comfort in the South American groups. At Barça, he can also count on his international teammates too. But he won't be the star attraction at the Camp Nou. He was allowed a 'Messi role' at Atletico but here, he'll need to fit into Messi's universe.


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