Joan Laporta has confirmed the rumours that Barça would be willing to listen to offers for Antoine Griezmann. The club has been trying to shift the player for the last few weeks, with his departure being factored into their sporting and economic plans for the coming season. The main problem, however, is that Griezmann is only willing to move to Atlético de Madrid. Barça has already held discussions with the Madrid club, but these negotiations hit a major stumbling block and no agreement was reached.
Barça knows that Griezmann is a player in high demand. Very high demand. There are various Premier League and Serie A clubs who would be willing to take the player on loan for the season, covering 100% of his wage, with a view to signing him on a permanent transfer next summer. Griezmann is still a top-class player, and genuine goalscorers command high transfer fees in European football. Barça would have liked to enter into negotiations with one of these teams - given its desperate need to get players off its wage bill - but Griezmann is only interested in returning to Atlético. He would even be willing to agree to a wage cut to make this move happen.
The deadlock in negotiations caused alarm in the corridors of Camp Nou last week. The club was convinced that the move would go through, but now this looks far from certain. Given the need to reduce its wage bill, Barça is trying to find new clubs for high earners such as Umtiti, Pjanic, Coutinho and Griezmann before the transfer window slams shut on 31 August. While there is a long time to go, negotiations with Atlético look like they could go right to the wire.
For the time being, Barça has decided not to follow up on interest from various European clubs in the French forward, given Griezmann's reluctance to join anyone other than Atlético. Barça has already held negotiations with Griezmann's former club, but no agreement could be reached. The club is not willing to give the player away for less than his market value, and neither is it willing to entertain swap deals that do not make sense from a financial or sporting perspective. The proposed swap deal involving Saúl Ñíguez is now off, given the centre midfielder's high wage demands. While Barça made it clear that Atlético's proposal was not acceptable, negotiations have not been broken off completely.
Atlético has not ruled out Griezmann's return to the Wanda Metropolitano. Club officials know that he is desperate to rejoin the club, and they are convinced that Barça will get desperate as the days go by given its desperate need to reduce its wage bill. Atlético is willing to wait until the last week of the window to make it happen. Atleti officials have been leaking messages that suggest that the deal is dead in the water, and even Diego Simeone has publicly wished Griezmann luck at Camp Nou this season. This is all part of the plan to get Barça to agree to a favourable swap deal or loan move, safe in the knowledge that Griezmann only has eyes for his former club.
Barça remains calm. The player knows that the club would like to move him on, but it is also working on a contingency plan in the event that Griezmann remains at the club beyond August. If he were to stay, the club would need its high earners to agree to wage cuts and for three or four players to leave the club in the coming weeks. Barça's sporting directors think that they can make it work, but Griezmann would need to fight for a place in the starting line up.
This is a game of poker involving Barça, Atlético and Griezmann. The question is: who will blink first?