MADRID (Reuters) - When Barcelona forward Antoine Griezmann returns to face his former club Atletico Madrid in La Liga on Saturday the Frenchman could be forgiven for wondering how things might have been different had he stayed at the Wanda Metropolitano.
First of all, the chances are that Griezmann will be on the bench as his current and former employers battle.
After leaving Atleti, where he was the star man, for the Nou Camp in 2019 few things have gone right for Griezmann. He has struggled to find the form that persuaded the Catalans to pay his 120 million euro ($141.98 million)release clause.
Instead, he has toiled in the shadow of Lionel Messi, unable to find a regular starting spot with youngsters Ansu Fati, Trincao and Pedri all leaping ahead of him in the pecking order.
Meanwhile, the man who replaced the France striker at Atletico, Portugal's Joao Felix, is flourishing, having scored eight goals in his last seven games for club and country.
Add in the impact at the Madrid club of Luis Suarez since the Uruguay striker joined from Barca in the last transfer window and Atleti, who are just three points off leaders Real Sociedad with two games in hand, look the team to beat in Spain.
Griezmann's former agent, Eric Olhats, this month launched a scathing attack on Messi and the power he wields at Barca.
"Antoine arrived at a club with big problems, in the fact that Messi controls everything," he told France Football magazine.
"He (Messi) is the emperor and monarch and he never wanted Griezmann to sign. His attitude has always been deplorable and he let it be known. You hear Griezmann say he's not got any problems with Messi, but never the other way round."
The agent no longer represents Griezmann but his outburst has not gone unnoticed in Catalonia, leading Messi upon his return from international duty with Argentina to tell Spanish media on Wednesday: "I'm tired of being the problem for everything at the club".
The whole situation will do little to help the 29-year-old Griezmann, who has looked short of confidence in the few opportunities he has been afforded by new coach Ronald Koeman, netting just twice in 10 appearances for Barca this term.
With Barcelona and Real Madrid struggling so far this season, there is a genuine chance for another club to push for La Liga glory. Atletico look as likely to do that as any other team, with Griezmann left thinking what might have been.
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(Reporting by Joseph Cassinelli; Editing by Ken Ferris)