Griezmann: "I've dreamt about what it will be like to play alongside Messi"

The French forward spoke exclusively to SPORT about life at Barcelona and what he's most looking forward to next season

Antoine Griezmann explica, en una entrevista a SPORT, cómo espera que sea la convivencia con Leo Messi, Luis Suárez y el recibimiento de la afición del Barça | Valentí Enrich

Jordi Gil

Antoine Griezmann has only spent 12 days with his new teammates but he's already adapting to the style and is reayd to win something big next season. The French forward sat down with SPORT to talk about his new adventure.

What can you tell us about your first couple of weeks at FC Barcelona and this tour of Japan?

Everything has gone really well. Like a dream, but with a lot of hours spent travelling. Breakfast is obligatory and we don't have a lot of time to sleep but everything has gone really well.

Are you doing better in the training sessions and 'rondos'? 

In the first session I was nutmegged twice so now I'm doing better. I'm not often in the middle, I'm getting used to it.

Have they asked you to pressure high up the pitch to recover possession?

We work on how to react to losing possession. We like to be in the opposition's penalty area and we need to pressure further up the pitch. Playing more will make it easier to learn that.

You made your debut as the main, central striker. Is it a position you feel comfortable in?

I played there for Atletico a couple of times, although I do better with a striker just ahead of me. I'm ready to give whatever my team or group needs from me. They know I can play on the left, right or through the middle. There isn't a problem.

Playing as the ‘9’ would perhaps give you more importance in the team?

I like to feel important for the team and the coach. I believe that from the first moment I arrived at the training ground, I've shown that. The most important thing is to score goals and provide assists.

Pie de foto | AUTOR FOTO

Could sharing a team with so many Barça stars be difficult for you? 

No, there are no problems. If there were, I wouldn't have come here. I'm desperate to meet Leo, to play with him, with Luis Suarez, Ousmane Dembele...

How does a forward line of Griezmann-Messi-Suárez sound to you?

Very good! On paper, it sounds really good. Later you have to show it out on the pitch, but I trust us, I trust the team. There's also Ousamane, Malcom, Philippe (Coutinho) too. There's a lot of top quality attackers who I'm sure will help the team do great things.

Would it be crazy to add Neymar to that forward line? 

Let's see what happens. There are a lot of details to a transfer. Neymar is world-class, a top player, so he could fit in at Barça..

If the coach wanted to play with four attackers (Dembélé or, if he comes, Neymar), are you prepared for the defensive work which comes with that?

You'll have seen my matches with Atleti. For me, that isn't a problem. The opposite, in fact! The more balls I win back defensively, the better I feel and the more confidence it gives me. That isn't a problem for me or my teammates. The hard work and effort to win things won't be an issue.

At Barcelona, there's a bad memory of Arda Turan who said he'd got tired of running under Cholo when he arrived at Barça. But that doesn't appear to be the same case for you...

In the end, everyone thinks how they want to think. Without Cholo I wouldn't be here. I owe hima  lot. He made me very complete and thanks to him I won the Europa League and the World Cup.

You explained in Tokyo that you'd received a message from Luis Suarez welcoming you to the club. You met at Godin's wedding. Do you think you'll work well with him?

We don't really know each other yet. We've sent a few messages back and forth and in last few days we've spoken together. We get on quite well. Soon we'll see each other every day in training and I'm sure we'll get on, both on and off the pitch.

Do you expect a tough battle with Suárez if you are both going for that '9' role?

The Uruguayans are like that, they don't like to lose and give everything out on the pitch. It's great to have a teammate from there because they motive the whole group to do the same.

What do you think about Leo Messi being disappointed after you didn't sign for Barça last season when he had publicly spoken about you?

His words made me feel very happy. He's the best. When he talks, the whole world listens. He knows this. That he would say that about me made me feel very proud. I insist that I'm desperate to finally play alongside him. I want to meet him, get to know him, watch him in training, play alongside him, provide assists... it'll be really nice. 

Have you thought about potential situations in a match alongside Leo? 

I've thought about it when I'm in bed, at training, and watching videos. You make the 'film' in your head and I know it'll go well.

What is your impression of Valverde? I suppose he has nothing in common with Cholo...

They are very different. Valverde is more relaxed, he doesn't shout as much as Cholo. But he has very clear ideas and knows where he wants to take the team which is the most important thing.

What does Antoine Griezamnn want to get out of his time at Barça?

To be an important player for the present and future. I hope I can help the club grow and the club, in turn, help me grow too.

Atlético have filed a complaint about you signing for Barça. Could you imagine what would've happened if you had signed for Real Madrid?

I don't want to think about it. It's a topic which hurts me, but it is what it is. These things happen in football. I'm relaxed. My focus is only on Barça and trying to learn how to pressure high up the pitch and improve.

Would you have ever signed for Real Madrid?

We can't talk about that, what could have been or what might have been. Maybe I could have been a basketball player. There's no need to talk about that.

Has anybody told you how the supporters feel and how many were hurt by your 'La Decision' video?

I can understand that some people would be angry but I'll try to win them over with assists and goals. I'm desperate to test that connection with the fans, that they enjoy watching me and I enjoy playing for them.

When they whistled at you in the Camp Nou, did it make you have any doubts about signing for Barça?

In that match I was only thinking about my team. How to close them down, score goals and win because it was a very important match.

On this tour, it feels like Dembélé is happier to be by your side. Could your arrival help him turn his own situation around?

We get on really well, with the national team and now (at Barça). He came back a week early and I see him desperate to become an important player here. We're all here to help and he's happy. I trust him both on and off the pitch.

Will you give him advice about how to act more professionally? 

Every player has problems at the start of their career. I had them too and I improved and learnt. He's intelligent, knows how things are and we're here to help him, help him grow and become very important to the team because he's very talented.


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