Barcelona is reportedly targeting Antoine Griezmann as a possible summer signing. (Getty)
Atletico Madrid has filed a formal complaint to FIFA over Barcelona’s pursuit of forward Antoine Griezmann, the world soccer governing body confirmed on Tuesday.
Barcelona’s interest in the French star has ramped up into a near-full-fledged public campaign recently. Players have praised Griezmann and told media they’d welcome him at Camp Nou. Barcelona director Guillermo Amor didn’t explicitly confirm reports that the club’s president, Josep Maria Bartomeu, had met with Griezmann’s family, but he definitely didn’t deny them.
“It could be that Bartomeu had a meeting with Griezmann’s family,” Amor said. “If that’s what the newspaper says, it may be that way, although I do not know.”
Griezmann has been the subject of interest from several top European clubs since developing into one of the world’s top goalscorers and creative attackers at Atletico. The rumor mill has linked him with both Barca and Manchester United.
The most recent reports suggest Griezmann could sign with Barcelona next summer. The 26-year-old forward extended his Atletico contract through 2022 this past offseason while the club served a transfer ban barring it from signing new players until January. That made a Griezmann sale less palatable for the time being.
But Barcelona still has cash to spend after the sale of Neymar to PSG for a world-record €222 million. Its public pursuit of Liverpool midfielder Philippe Coutinho has been rocky, and is ongoing, but failed in August. Its one big-money summer signing, Ousmane Dembele, has spent the majority of his first season in Spain sidelined by injury. Griezmann would be a logical target in 2018, and could be more available than he was a summer earlier.
But if Barca is going to bring anybody in, it has to not completely botch a transfer saga, and that’s proving difficult. Atleti’s complaint is the second filed against the Catalan club this month. Brazilian side Gremio filed a similar grievance when midfielder Arthur was photographed in a Barcelona shirt alongside Barcelona personnel in Brazil.
Barca isn’t the only club that engages in this type of technically illegal pursuit. Tampering, as it’s sometimes called in American sports, is a regular feature of the transfer market, and often goes unpunished. Atletico Madrid’s complaint could be forwarded to a FIFA committee that oversees transfers and their legality, but it unlikely to lead to discipline.
More than anything, it’s a signal that Atleti is digging in for a fight. It’s effectively a “hands off” warning, and a sign that Griezmann isn’t for sale. That doesn’t mean Barcelona won’t continue to make a push for the player. It just means Atletico is prepared to push back.
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Henry Bushnell covers global soccer, and occasionally other ball games, for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Question? Comment? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @HenryBushnell.