Antoine Griezmann has apologized to Atletico Madrid fans for the “hurt” they had to leave the club, after scoring the only goal in their 1-0 La Liga win over Athletic Club on Saturday (Stream the replay on ESPN+ in the US).
Griezmann’s return was made permanent on Monday – with a contract signed until 2026 – after Atletico and Barcelona agreed a €20m transfer fee, ending a dispute over the striker’s loan agreement that has used him as a substitute for most of this season.
– Stream on ESPN+: LaLiga, Bundesliga, MLS and more (US)
Under the two-year loan terms agreed in 2021, Atletico was due to pay €40m if the player appeared for more than 45 minutes in 50% of the matches he was available for, prompting the club to order coach Diego Simeone to keep him. Off the bench trying to force Barcelona to compromise.
Griezmann infuriated Atletico fans when he left for Barcelona in 2019 in a €120m deal – before failing to settle at Camp Nou and return on loan two years later.
“I am very proud that I finally got to this point, to be able to renew [my contract] “To be a full Atletico player,” Griezmann said on Saturday.
– Notebook: Inside stories from the world of football
“I apologise. I know a lot of people want to hear it directly from me. I’m sorry if I hurt the fans, but the biggest apology I want to make is on the field.”
The France international has started six of his nine LaLiga matches so far this season on the bench, but played the full 90 minutes in the victory over Saint Mamés that saw him move up to third in the standings.
“[Not starting games] Griezmann added: “It was difficult personally, but I tried not to show it. When I play, I give 100%, and if not, I support my teammates and make a difference when I am.”