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Stars like Kylian Mbappe, Paul Pogba, and Karim Benzema ring off any time people talk about French players. One name that goes under the radar is Antoine Griezmann, a player who defied the odds to become one of France’s greatest footballers.

From multiple rejections at Montpellier and Paris Saint Germain, Antoine Griezmann was able to forge a reputation as a world-class player while entertaining fans with his fun personality.

Early life and background

Antoine Griezmann was born in France to a father of German descent and a mother of Portuguese descent. 

The name “Griezmann” is of German origin, while his mother’s family name, “Lopes” is Portuguese. This diverse heritage, combined with his distinct appearance, set him apart from his peers.

Griezmann faced challenges and rejections from several French youth academies, partly due to his small stature and his less imposing physique, which was amplified by his different background.

Players like Marco Reus, Toni Kroos, and Lionel Messi also faced similar hurdles due to their lack of physicality.

Having been rejected by elite French youth academies, his parents decided to try their luck abroad.

Griezmann breaks through at Real Sociedad

At the age of 13, Griezmann moved to Spain and joined the Real Sociedad academy, marking another challenge as he adapted to a new culture.

After progressing through the ranks, he made his professional debut in 2009. Griezmann’s consistent performances and goal-scoring ability enabled Real Sociedad to gain promotion to the La Liga in 2010.

Source: Eurosport

Griezmann’s mohawk and German name distinguished him from his peers. His notoriety and flamboyant goal celebrations also matched his maverick performances.

At some point during his stint at the club, Antoine Griezmann was the best player in La Liga outside the traditional big 3 clubs: Real, Barca, and Atleti.

During the 2013/2014 season, Griezmann combined with Carlos Vela to deliver 32 goals in the league.

Transfer to Atletico Madrid

In the summer of 2014, Griezmann moved to Atletico Madrid for a reported fee of €30 million.

He quickly established himself as a key player under Diego Simeone, showcasing his talent and versatility.

His stellar performances did not go unnoticed by the French national team, which earned him a debut that same year.

Source: Eurosport

Joining UEFA Champions League finalist and La Liga Champions came with added pressure. But Griezmann immediately became a mainstay in El Cholo’s setup. 

Despite initial worries about his ability to adapt to Atletico Madrid’s physical style, he became the perfect maverick for a typically rigid system.

Becoming the best player outside Real Madrid and Barcelona

Real Madrid and Barcelona always attract the best players from Spain and around the world. This left clubs like Sevilla, Athletic Bilbao, and Atletico Madrid with players considered “the best of the rest”.

However, Griezmann was able to shine and compete with the best players in the world, individually and collectively.

Source: Marca

He was often regarded as the best player outside of Real Madrid and Barcelona, with the latter pair having the likes of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo during his time in Spain.

This tag is further justified, considering he ranked third in the Ballon d’Or rankings, first in 2016 and then again in 2018.

Source: Marca

Antoine Griezmann’s performance for Atletico Madrid and the French national team earned him this recognition in 2016. He reached the finals of both the 2016 UCL and Euros. He was the top scorer and the best player at the Euros.

In 2018, his contributions to Atletico Madrid’s UEFA Europa League victory and France’s World Cup triumph were pivotal in securing his third-place finish in Ballon d’Or voting.

International career with France

The Best Player award at the 2016 Euros was a mere consolation prize to Antoine Griezmann, whose side lost in extra time. This loss stung because it was on home soil. 

Source: Maisfutebol

2018 was Griezmann’s crowning year after becoming “the bride of Real Madrid” on two occasions. The gold that eluded him at club level came with the French National team.

Griezmann’s international career with France has been very successful, notably winning the 2018 FIFA World Cup and UEFA Nations League 2021.

Source: Qatar

Griezmann was influential in both triumphs, earning the Bronze Ball for the third-best player at the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

He holds the record for the most consecutive appearances for the French national team, with a streak of 84 matches.

This highlighted his importance to his national team, as he has played numerous forward and midfield roles for Les Bleus.

Griezmann currently ranks in the top 3 in terms of goals and assists for the French national team. He is the third-highest scorer with 44 goals, and he ranks second in the assists rankings with 37 assists.

Playing Style and Strengths

Griezmann has a very unique and desirable set of skills that puts him above his contemporaries. 

The most unique of them is his versatility. He can effectively play as a center forward, a winger, or an attacking midfielder.

He embodies the Thomas Muller role — a modern raumdeuter who can occupy any space across the front three.

This versatility allows him to fit into any setup and allows managers to deploy him where the team needs reinforcements.

Source: FourFourTwo

He is also known for his technical skills, vision, and goal-scoring ability. His ability to be a consistent goal scorer while being a creative outlet makes him a very reliable two-way attacking threat.

Antoine Griezmann’s work ethic and tactical intelligence are other characteristics that enable him to perform at a very high level.

The ill-fated transfer to Barcelona 

After making a name for himself in the Spanish capital, Griezmann felt there was a need to step up his career. 

This prompted Atleti to sell the Frenchman to Barcelona for €120M. This move seemed like the perfect choice, considering that Barcelona needed a replacement for Neymar.

Unfortunately, the fairytale ending was not the case. He initially struggled to find form and fit into Barcelona’s playing style.

Source: Marca

Ironically, one of football’s most versatile players struggled to find his place in the team. When he eventually settled in, he just did not hit full gear at the Catalan club.

Eventually, he returned to Atletico Madrid in 2021. He initially joined on loan, followed by a permanent transfer for €22M. His Barcelona stint earned him a place as one of the biggest transfer flops in football history.

Thankfully, being back at his previous hunting ground proved to be a lifesaver for the Atletico legend. He was able to re-establish himself as a key player under Diego Simeone and perform at the level he was expected to be at.

Although the Barcelona move was a failure, his ability to hit such lows in his career and rise to the top once again is a testament to his sheer determination and ability to overcome challenges. 

Legacy and Impact

Griezmann has always been a vivacious figure. From his bold hairstyles to his theatrical goal celebrations, he always had a reason to catch the eyes of fans on and off the pitch.

During his first spell with Atletico and Real Sociedad, his mohawk gained popularity, and it made him easily recognizable to fans and the media.

While the mohawk has been a consistent feature, he occasionally experimented with different variations, showing his dynamic approach to fashion. Let’s not forget the braids at Barcelona.

His famous “L” celebration, where he puts one hand on his forehead, the other at his waist region and then dangles his legs sideways, was very popular among football and Fortnite fans.

His iconic “Hotline Bling” celebration was only rivaled by Ronaldo’s “Siuu!”

This expressive persona, along with his leadership qualities, made him a very likable figure for not only diehard football fans but also anyone with any interest in the sport.

Despite being in tune with pop culture, Antoine Griezmann has made egregious missteps that tainted his legacy. 

The infamous blackface Halloween costume remains a stain on his perception, especially considering he plays predominantly with black players. To Griezmann’s credit, he has since apologized for the tasteless attempt at a joke.

What’s next for Antoine Griezmann?

Few footballing greats have had to overcome such challenging hurdles and face such a level of rejection very early in their career as he faced.

This rocky journey prepared him for the excellent player he became throughout his career.

One can still expect a lot from the Frenchman, as he is just over 30 and still has a couple of years to play at the top level.

Without a doubt, he is a legend of Atletico Madrid and French football. Fans can only hope to see more of him on the pitch, playing to the best of his abilities.

Who wrote this?

Bienuoma Agaga-Akpati is a software engineer, writer, eSports player, and sports enthusiast, presently working with a group of ambitious Africans to transform the writing industry. With good knowledge of various sports and eSports, coupled with his keen ability for research, he loves analyzing ideas and topics that fosters the growth of the sport and eSports scenes. In his spare time, he enjoys creating content and engaging in discussions across various platforms.

Bienuoma Agaga-Akpati is a software engineer, writer, eSports player, and sports enthusiast, presently working with a group of ambitious Africans to transform the writing industry. With good knowledge of various sports and eSports, coupled with his keen ability for research, he loves analyzing ideas and topics that fosters the growth of the sport and eSports scenes. In his spare time, he enjoys creating content and engaging in discussions across various platforms.

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