Atlético Madrid do not want to trigger Antoine Griezmann’s buy clause, which becomes automatic if he plays 45 minutes or more in 50% of all matches that he is available for, according to Spanish radio.
FC Barcelona bought the forward for 135 million euro, but loaned him to his old club for free to avoid paying his high salary (reported as 16 million net.)
Griezmann reduced his salary to 12 million, which was covered by Atléti. Then, after the two year loan is over, the moment of truth comes: if he has played enough, Atléti would automatically buy him for 40 million, and give him two more years of 12 million per season.
But the Frenchman’s star is fading. His goal return dropped dramatically. And he is now 31 years old, and will be 32 when the option is triggered. Atléti do not have a lot of space in the salary cap, either. All in all, it is said they’d rather return him to Barça. The problem? The Catalans do not want him back, as they’d have him on high wages for one more year, and then lose him for free rather than get 40 million for him.
In the first season, Griezmann played about 81% of the games he was available for. In 37 matches, Griezmann played at least 45 minutes 30 times. Remember, he needs to play in at least 50% of the games to make the purchase option mandatory. While it’s impossible to say for sure how many games Griezmann will be available for this season, we can estimate that he may only need to play around 14 matches in order for the purchase clause to trigger. It could be even less than that if he is unavailable through injuries.
In the two La Liga games he has featured in so far, he’s only played less than half an hour. The suspicion is that Atlético are hoping to use him less than 45 minutes at a time in order to avoid having to buy him. Doing so intentionally could be considered a form of fraud, although it would be hard to prove it was intentional and not simply a matter of the manager choosing not to select a player for sporting reasons.
Another problem for the colchoneros: Griezmann counts further against La Liga’s financial fair play rules because the clause is so close to being triggered. Therefore, Atlético must account for 1⁄3 of the 40 million they are due to pay - even if they don’t actually pay any of it, the FFP rules say Atléti must account for it.
So what now? The best solution for both clubs would be finding a buyer who would pay at least 40 million. But that will be hard given the player’s high wages and how desperate the capital club may be to get rid of him. Barcelona would have to sanction the sale, but they would almost certainly do so. The bigger question is whether the player himself would accept it.
Another option would be Barcelona agreeing to the transfer at a lower rate if the clause is not triggered, or perhaps, Atlético may just end up using him and accepting the high cost if the player gets back to his best. Right now, all options are on the table.