BARCELONA, Spain — Josep Maria Bartomeu has told ESPN FC that Antoine Griezmann‘s decision to turn down a move to Barcelona was “water under the bridge” as the Atletico Madrid forward prepares to make his first appearance at Camp Nou since then.
Last summer, Griezmann’s future was the subject of a documentary called “The Decision” in which the France international confirmed he would stay at Atletico.
Barca had no idea the documentary was being made, despite it being produced by defender Gerard Pique‘s company.
Club president Bartomeu said there were no ill feelings towards Griezmann and added: “The documentary about his decision is water under the bridge. It was spoken about a lot at the time. We have to look at the present, not the past.
“Each player weighs up what’s the best option for them. They make their own decisions. He stayed at Atletico, who are a big club in Europe, one of the best in UEFA’s rankings and [the team] we’re fighting against for La Liga this season.”
Atletico have been knocked out of the Champions League and the Copa del Rey and, realistically, only a win at Barca will keep them in the title race.
Griezmann has said it has been a frustrating season and sources told ESPN FC he has offered himself to some of Europe’s biggest clubs, including Barca.
That has sparked an internal debate at Camp Nou, with some keen to exercise his €120 million release clause in the summer but others against the move.
Asked whether Barca fans could react angrily to Griezmann, Bartomeu said: “Barcelona fans are very democratic. The members are the owners of this club, and they are within their rights to have whatever opinion they want. There is freedom of expression at Camp Nou.”
Bartomeu added that he expected a summer “with a lot of movement” as Barca look to move several players on and bring others in.
Ajax defender Matthijs de Ligt is a target, but Bartomeu said: “There will be time to speak about him. Each year the club has an interest in making signings and this summer will be the same. De Ligt, like the other best players, is on the table.
“He is a great player and a great centre-back. I know what will happen with him but it’s not the moment [to talk].”
Ernesto Valverde will be in charge next season after extending his contract last month, but Bartomeu indicated that the door would always be open to Pep Guardiola if he wanted to return.
“He took the decision to leave and, of course, when Barca are looking for a new coach I am sure he will be one of the next board’s candidates,” Bartomeu said.
“I think Pep said recently that he didn’t see himself as the first team coach again, but maybe with the academy. He’s very clear on the club’s philosophy and style of play and to be able to bring him back home would be great for the club and for the players.”