With news circulating about a possible exchange deal between Barcelona and Atletico Madrid involving Antoine Griezmann and Saul Niguez imminent, it is worth taking a look at the big winner from this deal.
The exchange of key players between two of the best La Liga clubs is significant news and is bound to generate a lot of different opinions, as the deal contains both pros and cons for both clubs.
According to Barcelona-based newspaper Sport, Barcelona wants 15 million euros in addition to Saul for Griezmann, who they are keen to get rid of due to their exorbitant salary bill.
Saul made his intentions clear earlier in the summer that he wanted a new challenge away from Atletico Madrid, and both clubs appear close to a compromise that satisfies both sides.
What will Barcelona gain from this deal?
It would probably be disrespectful to underestimate a player like Saul who is valued within the proposed deal at somewhere between 60 and 70 million euros, but perhaps the biggest advantage of the Barcelona deal is that they will be able to renew the contract with Lionel Messi.
That is Juan Laporta’s number one priority this summer: keeping Messi. By getting Griezmann’s salaries off the books, the Catalans can keep the best player in the world, which in itself is a huge victory worth sacrificing anything in itself.
The Blaugrana will also be able to add to their ranks the 26-year-old midfielder who already has an incredible wealth of experience in La Liga, having just won the title.
Saul is the kind of multi-talented Ronald Koeman keen to add to the squad. He was desperate to bring in Jorginho Wijnaldum before Dutchman opted for PSG, and Saul in a similar mold. So much so that Liverpool have been linked with him as a replacement for the late Wijnaldum.
With Miralem Pjanic out of the coach’s plans and the possibility of selling Alex Moriba if he remains refusing to renew his contract, exchanging Griezmann for Saul will fix a defect in the Barcelona team.
Newcomers Memphis Depay and Sergio Aguero, along with the return of Ansu Fati, make Griezmann’s departure unaffected by the quality of Barcelona’s offensive line. The truth is that the France international was a bit disappointed in his time at the Camp Nou, and it is a relief that he will be returning to his former club.
In two seasons, he scored 35 goals in 99 matches. His nine goals in La Liga in his first season was his worst result since he scored seven goals for Real Sociedad in the 2011/12 season.
In each of the five seasons that Griezmann spent at Atletico, he scored more goals than he scored in the Blaugrana shirt in the past two seasons combined.
What will Atletico Madrid gain from this deal?
First of all, they see the return of a former champion, a player who has been in great shape for them over five seasons and who helped Los Colchoneros lift three titles, including the 2018 UEFA Europa League, is remarkable.
On the other hand, the 30-year-old Griezmann wasn’t the player he was playing for Atletico, or at least he didn’t show himself while at Barcelona. And things didn’t quite go well in his absence as Atleti won the title last season, thanks in part to Luis Suarez’s goals.
However, the 30-year-old should definitely not be overtaken by Griezmann – just see how the 34-year-old Suarez responded to those criticism last season – and Diego Simeone is said to be delighted with the prospect of working with him again.
It remains to be seen if or how Simeone Suarez and Griezmann can fit into the same team. Perhaps the big question is where this leaves Joao Felix. It was reported that Barcelona inquired about the Portuguese forward’s availability in the swap deal, but Atleti are committed to developing the 21-year-old.
But how will this development happen with the advent of Griezmann! It will be a dilemma for Atletico Madrid and Simeone next season. Could they both play alongside Suarez? This will be absolutely the front line.
Of course, however, Atletico Madrid in this exchange deal lose club icon Saul Niguez. The Spain international has been at the club since he was 13 and his loss will be deeply felt at the Wanda Metropolitano.
Let’s not forget, however, that the 26-year-old wanted to leave this summer. In this sense, Atleti relieved themselves of a rebellious player and signed a high-profile player with a track record at a price of 15 million euros and the difference in wages.
With Koke and Marcos Llorente still at the club, along with Argentine newcomer Rodrigo de Paul, Atleti’s midfield will be in good shape even after Saul’s departure.
So who wins in this deal?
There are strong indications that both Atletico and Barcelona will benefit from this deal. They both get rid of a player he needs to get rid of this summer anyway, and in return get a player who will help him out on the field.
For Barcelona, it is hard to see any downsides to this deal, except perhaps that Saul will be fourth in midfield as he already has Sergio Busquets, Frenkie de Jong and Pedri. Depth is important and there will be minutes for Saul to have, but €70m is a lot for a substitute player, if that is what the situation will be.
Koeman likely has big plans for Saul, although we’ve seen how much he wants Wijnaldum, so it will be interesting to see how he organizes his squad in the coming weeks and months.
More importantly for the Catalans is the reduction of the salary and wage bill, which was necessary, and if we look at this we see that Barcelona have won Messi and Saul, there is no doubt that it is one smart move which improves the overall quality and balance in the team’s players.
For Atlético there are maybe a little bit more risks as they are acquiring an older player and they have to do their best.
To bring him back to his best, with their pay bill increasing and having to pay the difference in value as a transfer fee.
However, Saul wanted to leave and Griezmann was a world-class player if Simeone could get his way back, as he did before.
There is probably no clear winner or loser here, although Barcelona are certainly not the losers from this deal.
This article was translated from Marca newspaper