France forward Antoine Griezmann has been producing as a top player for the last few seasons at Atletico Madrid; however, his 2015/16 season in Spain, along with an outstanding Euro 2016 with France, has propelled the 25-year-old to stardom. The pint-sized striker netted 32 total goals for his club, a significant jump from 25 a year ago and 20 two seasons ago, and has also taken France to the final of this summer’s Euro tournament. Griezmann hasn’t just been a solid performer for France during the competition, he’s been the best player in the entire Euro 2016, and will almost certainly finish as the tournament’s highest scoring player.
Griezmann’s ascendance as one of the best strikers in the world wasn’t always a sure thing. Listed at just 5’9”, which is seemingly a bit generous, the forward was routinely told that he was too small to succeed at the sport when he was younger. While other superstars such as Leo Messi, Paul Pogba and Manuel Neuer progressed through the ranks with major European clubs, Griezmann began his playing career with his hometown club Mâcon. During his time with the small French club, a teenage Griezmann went on trial with bigger teams, but was regularly rejected due to his small frame.
It took until 2005, when the Frenchman was finally given a chance by a bigger club. While on trial for Montpellier, scouts from Real Sociedad noticed Griezmann’s potential and quickly offered the then 14-year-old a short-term trial with the Spanish club. The one week trial quickly turned into a full contract with the club. Griezmann, however, had to wait an additional four years to make his senior debut with the club.
Sociedad was managed by Martin Lasarte in 2009, the year in which Griezmann gained first team experience. Prior to joining the coaching staff with the Spanish club, Lasarte managed Uruguayan club Nacional, the same team that superstar Luis Suarez began his journey with as a soccer player. Lasarte has previously stated that he saw similarities between Griezmann and Suarez during his time with Sociedad.
“It is hard to explain but I had no doubts,” Lasarte said. “The feeling was very similar to what I felt with Luis. They share something in how clearly they see things, how sure they are of where they’re heading and what they want. Luis wanted to get to Barcelona, Antoine to play for France. He was serious, focused, technically talented. He was also fun, mischievous, winding people up: he looks like an angel with those blue eyes but he’s the devil.”
This killer instinct propelled attraction from clubs such as Atletico Madrid, Arsenal, and Liverpool after his successful 2013/14 campaign with Sociedad. Ultimately, Griezmann signed with Atletico Madrid for a fee of £24 million in the summer of 2014. Although at the time it was thought of as somewhat of a hefty price tag, the Spanish club could receive three times that price now if they were to sell their star player, something that Atletico manager Diego Simeone is surely not keen on (somewhere Simeone can be seen donning an all black suit, in front of a TV, watching Griezmann dominate Euro 2016 with a devilish grin on his face).
Though he may have been overlooked as a youngster, it is impossible not to notice just how good the 25-year-old striker is now. Griezmann has become a consistent prolific goalscorer in La Liga, the Champions League, and with the French national team. The Frenchman will look to finish off a glorious tournament by bringing his country their first major trophy in 16 years, when France play Cristiano Ronaldo-led Portugal on Sunday in Paris for the Euro 2016 title.