BARCELONA (Reuters) - Barcelona forward Antoine Griezmann must have been relishing Tuesday's match with former club Atletico Madrid, but even with his side drawing 2-2 and needing a winner to rescue their ailing La Liga title bid, he was not called upon until added time.
A third draw in six matches further doomed Barca's bid to win a third successive title and means arch rivals Real Madrid can go four points clear at the top of the table with five games left if they beat Getafe on Thursday.
But after the match, the focus on Griezmann's fall from grace since his 120-million-euro ($134.48 million) move from Atletico last year was even greater than the team's title bid.
The World Cup winning forward has not started in three of Barca's six games since returning to action, missing the crucial trips to Sevilla and Celta Vigo which also ended in draws.
But perhaps worst of all for him was coach Quique Setien's declaration that bringing on Griezmann earlier would not have helped his side.
"It's true that bringing him on for such little time is tough for a player of his level but the circumstances obliged me to do that. The other option was not to bring him on at all," said Setien.
"The players on the pitch were playing well and it wasn't easy to find a place for him without destabilising the team. I don't normally make late changes but I thought a player like him could win the game with one play."
Griezmann, who is Barca's second most expensive player of all time, has only scored one league goal since Setien became manager in January. He netted seven times under previous coach Ernesto Valverde.
"Tomorrow I'll speak with him. I won't apologise to him but I understand he might feel bad and I also feel bad for him because he's a great player and a great person," added Setien.
Griezmann's scant influence at Barca contrasts with the talismanic influence he had at Atletico, where he was leading scorer in each of his five seasons under Diego Simeone.
The Atletico coach's reaction to his former star man's cameo role said it all.
"I have no words," he said.
($1 = 0.8923 euros)
(Reporting by Richard Martin; Editing by Christian Radnedge)