Antoine Griezmann has admitted the thought of being ‘Lionel Messi’s lieutenant’ played a major role in him rejecting a summer move to Barcelona.
The Frenchman’s future at Atletico Madrid became something of a soap opera prior to the World Cup this summer with Barcelona desperately seeking to secure his signature.
Griezmann eventually announced he would not be making the £87million move to the Nou Camp and reaffirmed his commitment to Atletico before winning the tournament with France in Russia.
Now Griezmann has admitted that concerns over playing second fiddle to the Argentine icon was a major factor in him rejecting a move.
‘Was it hard to refuse Barca? It was very difficult,’ he told French TV station Canal+. ‘You have Barca who wants you, who calls you, who sends messages.
‘But then there is the club where you are, where you are an important player and where they build a project around you.
‘[And] subconsciously, being Messi’s lieutenant may have played a part.
‘But my team-mates and people at the club [Atleti] did everything, they came to talk to me, they increased my salary.
‘They did everything to show that it was my home and that I shouldn’t leave. It was really complicated times, especially for my wife where I woke her up at 3am to talk about it!’
Griezmann has scored six goals for his club this season as they sit third in La Liga, just one point behind leaders Barcelona.
He is currently away on international duty and is expected to play some part in France’s friendly against Uruguay on Tuesday night.
The 27-year-old has 26 goals in 65 appearances for his national team and was instrumental in their World Cup victory in Russia this summer.