I bumped into Antoine Griezmann in the Hotel Sofia in Barcelona. It was July and he hadn't been in the city for long. I remember how he came towards me and, despite the fact we didn't know each other at all, gave me a hug. I saw in that hug the joy of someone that had just signed for Barcelona. I saw a happy, grateful guy, someone full of excitement. In fact, I remember that hug whenever I see him play.
I won't go into all his numbers and statistics because they speak for themselves (14 goals, 10 of them Barça's first of the game). In fact, I think that he's performing better than could have been expected in his first season at the club. Above all, because when he arrived the atmosphere wasn't the best because of everything that had happened with the documentary 'The Decision.' Since his first day, his signing has generated controversy and he was even whistled by some sections of Camp Nou. He had to adapt despite all of that.
But he has managed it. Without being a childhood Barça fan, without coming through La Masia, his involvement and attitude have been exemplary. I don't think the supporters are completely aware of the player they have in their team: a Frenchman that landed in Barcelona and, despite no one making it easy for him, has not complained, has kept working hard and has sacrificed himself for the club, thinking only of the team. He's played on the left much more than is recommendable for a player of his qualities and has never pulled a face. The opposite. I am delighted he's now playing in a more familiar position, where he can only get better. After the injury to Luis Suarez, we already had the new 'No.9' under our noses.
I am convinced that he can -- and will -- give a lot more. I read Pesic's interview in SPORT the other day and I believe, as he said, the key is patience. He's providing the rest, with goals, with sacrifice and, above all, with commitment.
Whenever he can, he goes to watch the basketball team. We cannot ask Griezmann to do exactly as he did at his previous clubs, but we can ask him to keep making the same effort he's been making. Or, as has been the case, that he's only news for what he does on the pitch. Not like with other players, who occupy front pages for sporting scandals. Griezmann, who's not one to be seen at parties and carnivals, is always in my team.
BRAVE AT THE BernabEu
Zinedine Zidane's tactical plan for the Camp Nou Clasico in December is what I ask of Barcelona on Sunday at the Santiago Bernabeu. Quique Setien has to be brave, as his teams have been in recent years, aware of Madrid's potential, but convinced that his team is capable of causing problems with their attack and forcing Madrid to respect them.
It's essential to restore the good sensations that were lost with cautious planning in the first meeting between the sides this season. It's necessary to go after Madrid and to defend top spot as Barça always have done: by being braver than their eternal rival.
THROUGH IN THE CHAMPIONS LEAGUE
Even though we were held to a 0-0 draw, the 2-2 draw away from home in the first leg against the Costa Rican side Saprissa allowed us to progress in the Concacaf Champions League. Now we are focused on the start of the new Major League Soccer season: first up, we welcome New England Revolution in Montreal.