Barcelona are a structurally better side without superstar forward Lionel Messi, according to head coach Ronald Koeman.

The LaLiga giants were left stunned last month when Messi departed for Paris Saint-Germain on a free transfer after they were unable to fulfil a new contract that had been agreed.

Messi's exit has left a big void at Camp Nou, the six-time Ballon d'Or winner having scored 672 goals and assisted 265 across his 778 appearances for Barcelona.

Barca have started the post-Messi era with two wins and a draw in their opening three league matches, scoring seven goals in the process, and Koeman believes his side are adjusting to life without their greatest ever player.

"It was a huge blow to lose him," Koeman told Sport. "We had planned for the season with him. 

"We lose so much and it took a few days to get things in order, but we must turn the page and build the team.

"Losing Messi doesn't oblige us to play different tactically but there are things without the ball where the team can improve. 

"We won't have the individual quality of Leo, but in pressing and structuring the team, the team is better now."

 

Antoine Griezmann is another high-profile forward to have left Catalonia last month, the France international returning to Atletico Madrid on an initial loan just two years after swapping clubs.

Koeman understands the club's decision to let Griezmann depart in the final stages of the window, with Luuk de Jong arriving from Sevilla as a replacement.

"The aggravation we had on the last day, with practically no time to find a solution, it was a b****," Koeman said.

"Griezmann had a great contract and if he left it was going to help improve the financial situation of the club. That's why I agreed to his departure."

 

Koeman has repeatedly called on his other attacking players to step up and new recruit Memphis Depay has done exactly that with two goals and an assist in his first three competitive games for Barca.

Depay also scored his first international hat-trick for the Netherlands in Tuesday's 6-1 win over Turkey to move level with Johan Cruyff and Abe Lenstra in Oranje's list of all-time top scorers.

President Joan Laporta revealed this week Depay's number nine shirt is now the biggest seller at Barca and Koeman has backed his compatriot to be the face of the club for years to come.

"Memphis can mark an era at Barca," Koeman said. "He has something that is essential to be a success here: personality and character. 

"There's something different about him and he's really motivated by the challenge of being here."

He added: "There are always things to improve but I'll tell you one thing: if we have everyone available, we can do big things.

"We have a great team. We still have to be realistic, it will be difficult, but I am optimistic and ambitious."

Antoine Griezmann declared "I'm back" to Atletico Madrid's supporters after returning to training for the first time since re-joining from Barcelona.

The France forward made the switch to LaLiga's champions on loan for the 2021-22 season, with the option for either club to extend for a further year.

Less than 24 hours after scoring twice in Les Bleus’ 2-0 World Cup qualifying win over Finland on Tuesday, Griezmann was back in training with Los Rojiblancos.

The 30-year-old delivered a personalised message via the club’s official Twitter account, saying: "Hello Atleti fans, I'm back."

Griezmann scored 133 goals in 257 appearances during his first spell with Atletico between 2014 and 2019, before departing for Barcelona in a €120million deal.

He was part of Diego Simeone's side that won the 2018 Europa League, two years after helping them reach the Champions League final.

Didier Deschamps praised France's determination after defeating Finland 2-0 in Tuesday's World Cup qualifier.

Les Bleus ended a five-game winless run with victory in Lyon as they continued their unbeaten streak and created a seven-point gap over second-place Ukraine in Group D.

Despite an underwhelming return after a poor Euro 2020 showing, it is the first time since 2006 that France have not lost any of their first six matches in qualifying for a major tournament (W3 D3).

Indeed, consecutive draws against Bosnia-Herzegovina and Ukraine had placed pressure on Deschamps, which is why he hailed Tuesday's win as crucial.

"It's easy to talk, I'm doing what I think is good for them and the interests of the France team," Deschamps told TF1 post-match.

"Even if we didn't do everything well, today there was more determination and from there, the technical quality is there.

"It was a very important result, but the job will have to be finished in November.

"We have never stayed for such a long period [without a win], it can happen.

"We must therefore appreciate this victory and especially during the last two qualifying matches in November, finish the job."

Antoine Griezmann's brace proved the difference, his first making him the fourth France player to score 40 goals, while his second saw him join Michel Platini in third on the list of all-time goalscorers.

The 30-year-old thrived after a change in system by Deschamps to a three-man defence and the Atletico Madrid loanee also recognised the importance of the result.

"We wanted this victory, to show that we are solid and that we had not lost anything," Griezmann said to TF1.

"Now we must keep this state of mind, this desire to give everything on the field, to win the duels and having to hurt like we did.

"Maybe we found a system that suits us best. We'll see. It's the coach who'll decide. But tonight, we were strong.

"Five draws was a long time. We wanted to win and we did it in the right way."

Antoine Griezmann's double ended a five-game winless run for France as they defeated Finland 2-0 in Tuesday's World Cup qualifier.

Didier Deschamps' men scored the opening goal for the first time in six matches, Griezmann delivering a stunning left-footed finish to become the fourth player to score 40 goals for France.

Finland were the most recent defeat team to triumph on French soil but rarely troubled in Lyon, Griezmann adding a second after the break to draw him level with Michel Platini in third on the all-time scoring list.

The hosts sit top of Group D and remain unbeaten despite their underwhelming return after a poor Euro 2020, while Markku Kanerva's men have won just two of their past 12 games across all competitions.

Urho Nissila brought the first save from Hugo Lloris, his looping strike forcing the Tottenham goalkeeper to tip over before Karim Benzema called Lukas Hradecky into action with a left-footed effort.

However, Hradecky was no match four minutes later as Griezmann beautifully curled into the bottom-right corner after an offload from Benzema, who was appearing in Lyon for the first time since 2011 after returning to his former club with Real Madrid.

Paul Pogba came close to adding a second, though he could only volley wide on the stretch as he sliced his right-footed strike from outside the area.

Griezmann doubled his and France's tally after the break, rolling a delicate shot through the legs of Hradecky after being teed up by Leo Dubois.

Atletico Madrid's new loanee should have completed his hat-trick, Benzema again acting as the creator, but he could only poke over before acrobatically volleying wide with his next attempt.

Benzema could have had a goal of his own in the closing stages, but Hradecky got down well to parry away after the forward had struck a left-footed volley.

What does it mean? Deschamps ends winless run and furthers Group D lead

France had stuttered after their poor showing at Euro 2020, drawing their five games in a row for the first time in their history before the visit of Finland.

However, Tuesday's win ensured their unbeaten run remains intact and extended their advantage at the top of Group D to a seven-point gap over second-place Ukraine.

Finland have played a game less than their closest rivals Ukraine but also sit on five points in third place, despite only picking up their first win against Kazakhstan last weekend.

Perfect Pogba

Griezmann will take the plaudits but Pogba appeared a class above at Groupama Stadium as he enjoyed a game-high 142 touches.

No player completed more passes than the Manchester United midfielder (113), who also recorded the most opposition-half passes (73).

In a complete midfield outing, Pogba managed 17 recoveries of the ball, 10 more than any other player on the pitch.

Poor Pukki

Teemu Pukki needs just three more goals to become Finland's all-time top scorer but fired a blank in a timid performance, with a second-half caution not helping his cause.

Only the two goalkeepers, Lloris and Hradecky (both 28), had fewer touches than Pukki's 29 and he won fewer than half of the nine duels he competed for.

To make matters worse, the Norwich City forward completed the fewest passes (14) of any outfield player in Lyon to play 90 minutes as he endured a torrid time up top.

What's next?

France face Belgium in the Nations League semi-final in October before hosting Kazakhstan the following month. Finland next play Ukraine at Helsinki Olympic Stadium.

Barcelona president Joan Laporta has insisted Lionel Messi could not have remained at Camp Nou, even with Antoine Griezmann leaving and the club's captains reducing their wages amid mounting debt.

Barca's financial issues – the LaLiga giants' debt has risen to €1.35billion – led to the shock departure of superstar Messi to Paris Saint-Germain on a free transfer.

Gerard Pique accepted a substantial pay cut and fellow captains Sergio Busquets, Jordi Alba and Sergi Roberto followed suit to ensure the likes of Sergio Aguero could be registered for the new season, while Griezmann completed a sensational return to Atletico Madrid on deadline day.

However, six-time Ballon d'Or winner Messi remaining at Camp Nou was impossible, according to Laporta.

"What happened is what has been explained," Laporta told Esport3. "There are objective data. Everyone can compare. We were pressured that we would either sign the CVC loan [deal] or there is no fair play.

"There was no margin. There was a pre-agreement and we had shaken hands. There were several agreements and LaLiga seemed to accept it, but then they said no without CVC. We didn't think that the situation was going to improve and we put an end to it.

"Messi could not have stayed even with Griezmann's [departure] and with the salary reduction of the captains. But it is important that we have lowered the salary cap because next year we can be more ambitious.

"I think we were both sad because the situation was not what we wanted. I have not spoken with Messi since. I saw his debut with PSG and it was strange to see him at another team, rivals. I did not like seeing him in another shirt."

Laporta added: "The reduction [of the expenditure] is important – we have gone from 110 to 80 per cent. I want to congratulate the executives and the financial department of Barcelona for their work, and all those who have worked tirelessly and extraordinarily.

"And we have some heroes in Pique, Alba, Busquets, and we will seal [the deal with] Sergi Roberto.

"What they have done is admirable. They are committed to the club, to the members. It is admirable. And we will continue with other players, such as [Samuel] Umtiti and others from the first team. We are in a process that is not easy.

"First the captains have set an example, and now we will continue with others."

Ronald Koeman's Barca have made an unbeaten start to the 2021-22 campaign, winning two of their opening three LaLiga fixtures to be level on seven points with leaders Real Madrid, Sevilla, Valencia, Atletico and Mallorca.

"I like Koeman," said Laporta. "We won the game against Getafe. They are not easy games."

Atletico Madrid president Enrique Cerezo says he would understand if Antoine Griezmann is jeered by his own supporters after rejoining the Spanish champions from Barcelona.

France international Griezmann this week completed a surprise return to Atleti on an initial season-long loan deal with an option for both clubs to extend the deal by a further year, just two years after heading the opposite way.

The 30-year-old was a fan favourite during his previous five-season stint at the club before his €120million exit, scoring 94 goals in 180 LaLiga appearances.

However, many Atleti fans were unhappy with the manner of Griezmann's drawn-out exit in 2019, a year after dedicating his future to the club in a mini-documentary.

The deal also brought with it further controversy as Atleti insisted Barca had fallen some €80m short of the obligated fee, but the transfer was nevertheless upheld.

With Griezmann now back at the Wanda Metropolitano, however, Cerezo is hoping Atleti backers give their full support to their returning former hero.

Asked about the possibility of fans booing Griezmann when he returns to the field for Atletico, Cerezo told Cadena SER: "I would understand that. 

"But what I want to say is that we are not going to gain anything with this. When he left, all I said was that in Barcelona they wouldn't love him the same as they do here. 

"He left in a strange way, but he has shown that he was eager to return to Atletico Madrid.

"There are fans who will not like it, but there are others who were delighted with his return and in the end the important thing is performance and having the best squad."

 

Griezmann was directly involved in 29 LaLiga goals across his two seasons at Camp Nou, a tally bettered among Barca players by only Lionel Messi (85), who is now of course with Paris Saint-Germain.

He played 51 times in all competitions in 2020-21, recording 20 goals and 12 assists, but was allowed to leave on deadline day due to the Catalans desperately needing to balance their books.

The transfer went through late on after Atletico freed up space by sending Saul Niguez to Chelsea on an initial loan deal.

"It was a three-way carom and we are lucky to have Griezmann for the next two years," Cerezo added. 

"We did not count on Griezmann because we didn't know if Saul was going to leave."

Griezmann featured in all three of Barca's LaLiga games in August, but failed to score or create a single chance.

Antoine Griezmann is relishing his return "home" after Atletico Madrid rescued him from Barcelona, with Diego Simeone set to be a big winner if the Frenchman rediscovers his best form.

The transfer window was closing when Atletico dashed in to snatch Griezmann, as Saul Niguez's move to Chelsea cleared space in coach Simeone's squad for a major arrival.

Griezmann said he was sad not to play regularly in front of a packed Camp Nou during his time at Barcelona, with the pandemic putting paid to that prospect.

That message came in a goodbye note to Barcelona supporters on Wednesday, but on Thursday he had his eye on the challenge ahead.

"Looking forward to coming home," Griezmann wrote on Twitter, replying after Atletico announced he would inherit Saul's number eight shirt.

He has joined on an initial loan with a reported obligation to buy for €40million after spending just two years at Camp Nou, with Barcelona having paid €120million to sign Griezmann, one of a string of big-money deals that proved poor value for the Blaugrana's money.

Griezmann never managed to recapture his best form in Catalonia, but Simeone will have scooped a bargain if the forward's prime performances return.

 

WHAT COULD THIS HOMECOMING BRING ATLETICO?

With Barca, Griezmann started 66 games in LaLiga but was substituted off 37 times, with the changes of coach from Ernesto Valverde to Quique Setien and then Ronald Koeman hardly encouraging stability.

During his first stint at Atletico, he started 168 times in the league and was taken off on just 68 occasions, an indication Simeone resoundingly backed his ability.

That faith would stem primarily from the fact only Lionel Messi (176), Cristiano Ronaldo (134 from 2014-18) and Luis Suarez (131) scored more LaLiga goals than Griezmann's haul of 94 during his five-year stay at Atletico. Before that, he was a regular scorer in LaLiga for Real Sociedad, whom he helped earn promotion in the 2009-10 season.

Yet there was much more to Griezmann's game in his first Atletico spell than goals, with his hard work meaning he fitted the bill for the club's taskmaster Argentine coach.

A remarkable 651 ball recoveries in five seasons was the highest total achieved by any forward in the league (Iker Muniain second on 551), but at Barcelona he was only 11th on the list in that department for the combined two years and two months he spent with the Catalan giants.

He was top five for assists (32) among all LaLiga forwards while at Atletico, got his 88 non-penalty league goals from an expected goals (xG) haul of 68.41, showing how clinical he was, while he also ranked in the top three for Opta-defined 'big chances' created (56).

His shot conversion rate was a healthy 21.2 per cent, which fell away to 16.9 per cent while at Barcelona, where his lacklustre display against Getafe last weekend suggested it was indeed time to move on.

At Atletico, he is set to team up with Suarez, his former Barcelona team-mate whose acquisition last year proved a stimulus for the Rojiblancos' title charge.

And in a quirk of fate, Griezmann could make his return to Atletico action back in Barcelona, at Espanyol on September 12.

By scoring for France on Wednesday, albeit fortuitously against Bosnia and Herzegovina, Griezmann was again making a nuisance of himself at a high level, which is where Atletico find themselves after winning LaLiga last term.

And as much as he is "looking forward to coming home", it remains to be seen whether the scars of an acrimonious exit have healed.

France head coach Didier Deschamps acknowledged there is "significant room for improvement" with his attacking trio of Antoine Griezmann, Karim Benzema and Kylian Mbappe while the latter suffered a reported calf concern.

Deschamps deployed the star trio together for the seventh straight game but lacked genuine attacking cohesion as Les Bleus drew 1-1 with Bosnia-Herzegovina in Strasbourg.

The France boss has persisted with the trio since Benzema's return to the national team fold, yet Les Bleus are winless in their past four games.

Griezmann equalised in the 39th minute after Edin Dzeko's opener but France were forced to play for most of the second half with 10 men after Jules Kounde's red card.

Mbappe crashed his only shot for the game off the near post in the 27th minute, while Griezmann's goal came with fortune after Dzeko headed a corner into his back and over the line.

Benzema's only shot on target was a tame deflected effort that was easily held by Bosnia goalkeeper Ibrahim Sehic.

"There were good things, there were sequences and individual actions," Deschamps said after the game.

"The opponents make sure to bring in a lot of people, to reduce spaces. We created chances in the first half. There are situations that could have been better handled as well.

"The room for improvement in offensive efficiency is significant, particularly with the individual quality of these three players.

"I have others on the bench. I have made changes to boost this area."

Real Madrid target Mbappe was replaced in second-half stoppage time by Moussa Diaby with RMC reporting a calf issue, although the severity is unknown at this stage.

The world champions remain top of Group D in World Cup qualifying with eight points from four games despite the draw, with second-placed Ukraine drawing 2-2 in Kazakhstan.

"We knew that [result] before and it proves that the qualifying phases are complicated," Deschamps said.

"I will not hide that we must be satisfied with this draw even if it was not what we had planned. Considering the scenario, it was complicated when we were reduced to 10.

"We have one more point and there are others to pick up on Saturday in Kiev. It happens very quickly. I have no regrets in the sense that the intentions were there."

Les Bleus return to action on Saturday away to Ukraine in Kiev, before a third qualifier in the break against Finland.

France failed to bounce back from their surprise Euro 2020 elimination as they were held to a 1-1 draw in 2022 World Cup qualifying by Bosnia-Herzegovina, finishing with 10 men. 

Les Bleus, who went out in the last 16 of the European Championship after a shock penalty shoot-out loss to Switzerland, fell behind to Edin Dzeko’s 36th-minute strike in Strasbourg on Wednesday but were quickly back on terms following a fortuitous goal for Antoine Griezmann. 

Didier Deschamps' side would have been expecting to push on for a win to go six points clear of second-placed Ukraine, who drew 2-2 with Kazakhstan earlier on Wednesday, in the second half of the Group D clash. 

However, after a deadline-day switch from Sevilla to Chelsea failed to materialise, Jules Kounde was shown a red card for a lunge on Sead Kolasinac following a VAR check and France had to settle for a point. 

Kylian Mbappe missed the decisive penalty against Switzerland but went close to getting back on the scoresheet when his effort from the tightest of angles crashed behind off the near post in the 27th minute. 

Miralem Pjanic warmed the gloves of Hugo Lloris before Dezko seized upon a wayward Thomas Lemar pass and drilled a fine 20-yard effort through Presnel Kimpembe's legs and into the bottom-right corner. 

France were somewhat lucky to restore parity three minutes later. Dzeko headed a corner against Griezmann's back and following a VAR check it was clear Ibrahim Sehic had failed to keep the ball out after a slight touch off Dennis Hadzikadunic. 

Aurelien Tchouameni was sent on for his debut at half-time but France's plan was thrown into disarray following Kounde's late tackle on Kolasinac, who had to be replaced by Eldar Civic. 

Bosnia had a couple of chances to steal a famous win, but Smail Prevljak and Pjanic were unable to find the target with their efforts inside the final five minutes.
 

The transfer window does not close. It slams shut, and on Tuesday, it slammed shut with a flurry of late activity.

LaLiga champions Atletico Madrid were heavily involved, with Antoine Griezmann re-joining the club on loan from Barcelona while Saul Niguez left for Chelsea.

It marked the end of a difficult window for Barca, who of course lost Lionel Messi to Paris Saint-Germain, who rounded off a stellar three months by not only keeping Kylian Mbappe, but also adding promising left-back Nuno Mendes.

Earlier in the day, Cristiano Ronaldo's sensational return to Manchester United had been confirmed, perhaps putting the Red Devils right in the mix for the Premier League title, while Chelsea - buoyed by Romelu Lukaku's comeback - cannot be ignored.

Here, Stats Perform looks at the winners, and losers, of what has been a chaotic transfer window.

 

THE WINNERS

Paris Saint-Germain

Let's start with the obvious. Achraf Hakimi, Mendes, Sergio Ramos, Gianluigi Donnarumma, Georgino Wijnaldum and, of course Messi. Oh, and PSG kept hold of Mbappe, too, rebuffing three bids - the final one reportedly worth €200m - from Real Madrid for the 22-year-old superstar who is out of contract next year. Speaking of out of contract players, Ramos, Donnarumma, Wijnaldum and Messi were all brought in for combined fees of €0, although their wages are sure to be astronomical even by PSG's standards. In Mbappe, Neymar and Messi, PSG have, on paper, what could be the most feared attacking trident of the modern era, not to mention Angel Di Maria in reserve. Mauricio Pochettino's side look suspect defensively but have Ramos to come in, while Donnarumma will compete with Keylor Navas. If they do not win the Champions League this season, will they ever manage it?

Manchester United

It remains to be seen whether United really needed to go out and buy Ronaldo, but the temptation – and reportedly, the requirement to get one over on noisy neighbours Manchester City – was just too much. However, there is no doubting Ronaldo brings a focal point you could argue was still missing from the Red Devils' attack, though with so much quality at his disposal the pressure will be on Ole Gunnar Solskjer to deliver a trophy. United spent big on Jadon Sancho and also brought in a world class defender in Raphael Varane. A title tilt might not be expected just yet, but silverware in some form must be the goal now. After fan protests during the botched Super League proposals earlier this year, the Glazer family seem to have gone all out to prove they want success.

Chelsea

When it comes to Premier League title contenders, Chelsea have surely put themselves well in the running. The European Champions have brought in two major additions in the form of Lukaku and Saul, both players with a wealth of experience at the highest level, and both on the back of title-winning campaigns last season. The Blues did sell Tammy Abraham, Olivier Giroud and Kurt Zouma, among others, but the strength in depth Thomas Tuchel has to play with is remarkable. A deadline day move for Sevilla's Jules Kounde did not materialise, but Saul adds another fantastic option in midfield to go alongside N'Golo Kante, Mateo Kovacic and the in-form Jorginho.

Tottenham

For a long while, it looked as though Tottenham would be one of the big losers from this window. A prolonged managerial search eventually resulted in Nuno Espirito Santo's appointment, but the main saga was over Harry Kane's future. City reportedly made one bid, during Euro 2020, which was dismissed out of hand. The champions never did return with an improved offer, despite huge speculation, and Kane ultimately stayed put. Older players such as Joe Hart, Toby Alderweireld, Erik Lamela and Moussa Sissoko were moved out, while Bryan Gil, Pierluigi Gollini, Cristian Romero and Emerson Royal – a deadline day arrival from Barca – arrived to fill the gaps. Serge Aurier's contract was terminated, while three wins from three means Spurs sat top of the league heading into the international break.

Atletico Madrid

While Saul was a deadline day exit, Atleti have given themselves a great chance of retaining their LaLiga title. With rivals Madrid failing to land Mbappe, as well as losing two of their stalwarts, and Barca seemingly in disarray, there has never been a better opportunity for Diego Simeone's team to really assert themselves as top dogs in Spain. Griezmann's arrival, on a season-long loan with the option for either club to extend the switch, has bolstered a fearsome attack that already included Luis Suarez, Angel Correa, new signing Matheus Cunha and Joao Felix - though the latter may now find chances to play in his preferred position, nominally off the front man, even harder to come by. Saul was struggling to nail down a regular spot in the first team, but Atleti showed greater desire to keep Kieran Trippier, who stayed despite interest from the Premier League. Rodrigo de Paul also arrived from Udinese.

 

THE LOSERS

Barcelona

The chickens have finally come home to roost at Camp Nou. Years of mismanagement, and the impact of COVID-19, has left the club's finances in a shambolic state. Barca had agreed to a new deal with Messi only to then announce the deal could not be completed due to "financial and structural obstacles". Barca ended the window by selling promising youngster Ilaix Moriba to RB Leipzig and shipping off Emerson to Spurs. Then, late on Tuesday, Griezmann, who cost Barca €120m in 2019, was sent back to Atleti. Luuk de Jong, a target man Ronald Koeman worked with during his stint as the Netherlands' coach, was drafted in from Sevilla as a replacement. Memphis Depay seems ready to step up after his arrival from Lyon, while Eric Garcia and Sergio Aguero also came in on free transfers, though Gerard Pique, Sergi Roberto, Jordi Alba and Sergio Busquets were among the players who took pay cuts in order for Barca to register their latest acquisitions.

Inter

Serie A champions Inter were dealt a blow when, just after ending their 11-year trophy drought, coach Antonio Conte left the club. Financial difficulties meant the Nerrazurri had to cash in on prized assets, and Hakimi and subsequently Lukaku followed Conte out of the door. Lautaro Martinez did stay, however, with Inter reinvesting some of the funds to sign Netherlands right-back Denzel Dumfries, Roma striker Edin Dzeko and Lazio forward Juan Correa. Hakan Calhanoglu, meanwhile, joined from rivals Milan on loan, though it is difficult to see that being enough for Inter to challenge on all fronts this season.

 

Juventus

While Inter were weakened, it has to be said that Juventus – surely their closest rivals in the Scudetto hunt – also had a disappointing window. Like many European clubs, they have been hit hard by COVID-19, though appeared well set to challenge again after reappointing Massimiliano Allegri. However, Ronaldo decided he wanted out late in the window, and Juve did not stand in his way. An initial fee of £12.86m (€15m), payable over five years, was agreed with United, and Ronaldo left just like that. Moise Kean returned from Everton on a two-year loan with an obligation to buy as a replacement, while Manuel Locatelli was their other major acquisition and Weston McKennie's move from Schalke was made permanent. Based on the performance in Sunday's defeat to Empoli, however, Juve are far from the force they were during Allegri's last spell in charge.

Real Madrid

For a time last week, it really did look as though Madrid were going to end the window in sensational fashion. Three bids were lodged for Mbappe, but PSG did not buckle. Madrid did move for another French youngster – Edouardo Camavinga, who joined from Rennes on Tuesday – but overall it must be considered a poor window. Los Blancos allowed Ramos to leave on a free and sold long-time defensive partner Varane - just the eight Champions League winners' medals between them. Martin Odegaard was deemed surplus to requirements by Carlo Ancelotti and sold to Arsenal, though no buyers were found for fringe players Luka Jovic or Dani Ceballos. David Alaba's arrival on a free transfer from Bayern Munich at least softened the blow of Ramos' departure, and Mbappe may well be on board in 2022.

Manchester City

City broke the British transfer record to sign Jack Grealish from Aston Villa, who in turn have made smart acquisitions such as Danny Ings, Leon Bailey and Emiliano Buendia. While another attacking midfielder was more of a luxury than a necessity, City did miss out on Kane and then seemingly saw Ronaldo snatched from under their noses by United, though the club have claimed it is they who pulled out of the deal. Pep Guardiola went into the window wanting an out-and-out number nine following Aguero's departure, but for now the Premier League champions will have to carry on with makeshift forwards, it seems. Not that it did them much harm in 5-0 routs of Norwich City and Arsenal last month. Meanwhile, wantaway playmaker Bernardo Silva is still at the club, though he will remain a first-team regular.

Liverpool 

Unlike their league rivals, Liverpool never seemed focused on spending big. The Reds instead turned their attention to tying down the futures of key players, with Jordan Henderson, Virgil van Dijk, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Alisson, Fabinho and Andrew Robertson signing new deals. Ibrahima Konate came in from RB Leipzig to boost the defence – a clear area of weakness last season during an injury crisis – though Jurgen Klopp's squad does seem weaker. They have started the season well, but it remains to be seen how they cope without Wijnaldum and even Xherdan Shaqiri should injuries trouble them again.

Antoine Griezmann says he gave everything for the Barcelona shirt and is upset his time at the club came to an abrupt end after completing a return to Atletico Madrid.

The France international rejoined Atletico on an initial loan with an obligation to buy on Tuesday after spending just two years at Camp Nou.

Barcelona spent €120million to sign Griezmann from LaLiga rivals Atleti in 2019, but the 30-year-old never managed to recapture his best form in Catalonia. 

Former Real Sociedad attacker Griezmann made his 100th appearance for Barca in all competitions two weeks ago and targeted another century of games for the club.

But he went on to appear just two more times for Barca before finalising a deadline-day return to the Wanda Metropolitano.

Commenting on the transfer for the first time on Wednesday, Griezmann took to social media to thank Barcelona fans for their support over the past two years.

"Dear Culers. I say goodbye thanking you for your love," he posted on Twitter. "I gave everything for this shirt. 

"I have been involved with this great club and I am sad that I could not enjoy more of you in the stands, but proud to have been one of yours. Visca Barca!"

 

Griezmann's Barca career may have been largely underwhelming, but only Lionel Messi (85) – who departed for Paris Saint-Germain last month – has been directly involved in more LaLiga goals for the Blaugrana than the Frenchman's 29 since his debut in September 2019.

The 30-year-old played 51 times in all competitions in 2020-21, making 45 starts and clocking up 3,904 minutes in total.

Griezmann recorded 20 goals and added 12 assists last season, while his 20 goal involvements in LaLiga again trailing only Messi in Barca's squad.

He had started in all three of Barca's LaLiga fixtures so far this season, too, but had failed to score, provide an assist or even create a chance in those appearances.

The transfer window officially closed on Tuesday, meaning clubs across Europe must now make do with the players available to them until at least January.

It has been an eventful few months, with Lionel Messi ending his 21-year association with Barcelona by joining Paris Saint-Germain and Cristiano Ronaldo sealing an emotional return to Manchester United from Juventus.

The drama continued to unfold right through until the final stages of the window as Antoine Griezmann rejoined Atletico Madrid on an initial loan and Chelsea snapped up Saul Niguez from the Spanish champions, while Real Madrid brought in rising star Eduardo Camavinga from Rennes.

With Kylian Mbappe staying at PSG and Harry Kane still a Tottenham player, Jack Grealish's £100million switch to Manchester City from Aston Villa was the biggest deal in monetary terms, followed by Romelu Lukaku's £97.5m (€115m) move to Chelsea from Inter.

Stats Perform takes a look at the best deals that went through.

Hakan Calhanoglu: Inter to Milan (free transfer)

After failing to agree new terms at Milan, Calhanoglu completed a shock move across the city to rivals Inter, signing a three-year deal.

While not necessarily the most popular transfer, getting a player who created 98 chances last season – the most of any player in Europe's top five leagues – for free is quite something.

The Turkey international got a goal and an assist on his debut in the 4-0 win over Genoa, prompting coach Simone Inzaghi to proclaim the player "doesn't realise how good he is".

Manuel Locatelli: Sassuolo to Juventus (loan with €25m obligation)

One of Italy's most prized young assets, Locatelli secured a move to Juventus on a two-year loan that includes an obligation to buy for an initial €25m.

Among midfielders in Serie A last season, the 23-year-old made the most touches (3,304), passes (2,749) and tackles (81). He then impressed as Italy won Euro 2020, scoring twice in the group-stage win over Switzerland.

For a club looking to strengthen while saving money, this could prove a shrewd deal for Juve.

 

Danny Ings: Southampton to Aston Villa (£25m)

Villa appear to have invested the money they received for Grealish in shrewd fashion, signing Leon Bailey, Emiliano Buendia and striker Ings.

While the Ings deal materialised very quickly in early August, he certainly did not seem to need much time to adjust to new surroundings, scoring twice in his first three league games this season.

With 34 goals across his final two league campaigns with Southampton, there is reason to think the 29-year-old could be one of the smartest signings of the window.

Lionel Messi: Free agent to Paris Saint-Germain

The most spectacular free transfer of all time came after Barcelona had agree a new contract with Messi only to be forced to admit they could not let him sign it due to financial restrictions.

A tearful Messi bade farewell to his boyhood club before securing a move to PSG, who now boast a frankly terrifying forward line of Messi, Neymar and Mbappe.

Describing it as a 'free' transfer is somewhat misleading given the various costs involved in the different aspects of the deal, but for PSG to sign arguably the greatest player in history without paying a transfer fee is pretty amazing business.

 

Romelu Lukaku: Inter to Chelsea (£97.5m)

Chelsea smashed their transfer record to bring back Lukaku, whose last action in his first spell at the club was to miss a penalty in the UEFA Super Cup shoot-out loss to Bayern Munich in 2013.

Lukaku plundered 24 goals and 11 assists in 2020-21 to fire Inter to the title and claim Serie A's MVP award, after which he pushed for a return to Stamford Bridge, where he felt he had unfinished business.

It might have been a serious financial outlay, but Lukaku showed in the 2-0 win at Arsenal what a difference he could make to a Chelsea side who are extremely tough to beat but not exactly free-scoring.

Eduardo Camavinga: Rennes to Real Madrid (€30m)

Madrid may have missed out on top target Mbappe, but they managed to get a deal over the line for fellow Frenchman Camavinga, bringing an end to 18 months of speculation surrounding the young midfielder.

It is the first time Madrid have spent money on a transfer fee since 2019, when they signed Eden Hazard from Chelsea for €100m, and in Camavinga they are signing a player for the here and now rather than the future.

Since making his debut for Rennes in April 2019, no player in Ligue 1 has attempted (230) or won more tackles (139) than the three-cap France international, who will now provide competition for Casemiro, Toni Kroos, Luka Modric and Federico Valverde.

 

Saul Niguez: Atletico Madrid to Chelsea (loan with option to buy for £30m)

After being regularly linked with the likes of Manchester United and Liverpool in recent years, Saul will finally get a chance to play in the Premier League with Chelsea this season.

A box-to-box midfielder, the Spain international is at his best operating in a central role, though his versatility and workrate have often seen him deployed out wide by Atletico coach Diego Simeone.

He made just 22 league starts last season, his lowest figure since 2014-15. However, since August 2019, Real Madrid's Casemiro (190) is the only midfielder to have attempted more tackles than Saul (159) in LaLiga.

Antoine Griezmann: Barcelona to Atletico Madrid (loan deal with an obligation to buy)

Two years after leaving Atletico in a big-money transfer, Griezmann has returned to the Spanish capital to boost an attack that already includes Luis Suarez, Joao Felix, Angel Correa and fellow new recruit Matheus Cunha.

Griezmann's Camp Nou career never truly took off and he failed to score or create a single opportunity across Barca's first three league games this season.

But Simeone will be confident he can get the Frenchman, who scored 94 LaLiga goals in 180 appearances in his first stint at the club, operating at somewhere close to his former glory.

 

Cristiano Ronaldo: Juventus to Manchester United (£12.9m rising to £19.7m)

Twelve years after departing Old Trafford, Ronaldo is once again a Manchester United player after completing a surprise return to the club where he won the first of his five Ballons d'Or.

Ronaldo scored 118 goals in 292 appearances under Alex Ferguson in his first spell, 42 of those goals coming in the 2007-08 season alone, and he remains a prolific forward despite his all-round game changing with time.

The Portugal captain scored 29 league goals in his third and final season with Juventus to win the Capocannoniere, making him the first player to finish as top scorer in Serie A, LaLiga and the Premier League.

Antoine Griezmann has rejoined Atletico Madrid from Barcelona on loan, just two years after leaving the Wanda Metropolitano.

Atleti sold France striker Griezmann to Barca for €120million in 2019, yet he has never managed to recapture his best form at Camp Nou.

Lionel Messi's departure to Paris Saint-Germain earlier in August might have given Griezmann the opportunity to take centre stage, but the 30-year-old received flak from the Barca fans as Ronald Koeman's side - inspired by Memphis Depay - laboured to a win over Getafe last weekend.

Koeman defended Griezmann, saying: "I don't like it when a Barca player is whistled. Someone who works like Antoine can never be criticised.

"All the attackers can have their day but there are games where you can't find the space. We haven't created opportunities for him either."

However, LaLiga champions Atleti – who were linked with their former talisman last month – have now brought Griezmann back to the Spanish capital.

Griezmann has signed on loan for 2021-22, with the deal including the option for either club to extend it for a further year. Barca also announced there is a compulsory permanent transfer clause.

While his exit will go towards easing Barca's financial difficulties, Atleti are bolstering an attack that already features Luis Suarez, Joao Felix and Angel Correa, as well as another new recruit in Matheus Cunha.

Atleti president Enrique Cerezo suggested last month that fans would not forgive Griezmann for how he left for Barca, who had reportedly been open to offers for the forward for some time, potentially allowing them to retain Messi.

 

GRIEZMANN'S BARCA STINT BY THE NUMBERS

After making much of his call to stay put at Atleti – he took part in a mini-documentary to confirm his decision before the 2018 World Cup – Griezmann completed a big-money switch a year later.

It was not without controversy, though, as Atleti insisted Barca had fallen some €80m short of the obligated fee, but the transfer was nevertheless upheld.

His first season at Camp Nou was one to forget. The coronavirus pandemic merely prolonging a dismal campaign by Griezmann's previously lofty standards – the nadir for all involved coming in the humbling 8-2 Champions League defeat to Bayern Munich.

Yet Griezmann came into his second campaign with a renewed sense of purpose and finally seemed to click under new boss Koeman.

While still having to fit in around key man Messi, Griezmann played 51 times in all competitions, making 45 starts and clocking up 3,904 minutes in total (the second most he has managed in a campaign since his move to Atleti).

Griezmann recorded 20 goals and added 12 assists last season, while his 20 goal involvements in LaLiga trailing only Messi in Barca's squad.

He had started in all three of Barca's LaLiga fixtures so far this season, too, but had failed to score, provide an assist or even create a chance in those appearances.

It was well after the final whistle on deadline day but, eventually, Antoine Griezmann's return to Atletico Madrid was officially confirmed.

Two years after leaving, Griezmann has joined on a season-long loan from Barcelona, with the deal including an option to extend for a further year and a compulsory permanent transfer clause.

Earlier this month, Barca – in a straw-clutching move following Lionel Messi's departure for Paris Saint-Germain – made a rather big deal of Griezmann making his 100th club appearance. Not even two weeks later, he is gone.

On that landmark appearance, Griezmann hit the crossbar in a 4-2 win over his former club Real Sociedad, where he had developed into one of LaLiga's brightest attackers before joining Atleti in 2014. 

He went on to score 94 LaLiga goals for Diego Simeone's team before a long-rumoured switch to Barca went through. Yet he has never quite managed to scale the same heights at Camp Nou as he did at his previous home.

A disappointing first campaign marred by injuries and inconsistency left Griezmann playing catch up last term, though he did net 20 times across all competitions to finish as Barca's second-leading scorer.

Stats Perform assesses how Griezmann's efforts last season match up to his best campaign from his previous Atleti stint, as well as looking at what he could contribute to Simeone's attack.

 

GRIEZMANN AT HIS PEAK

Griezmann was a model of consistency throughout his time at Atleti, as he became the perfect, versatile forward for Simeone's disciplined side.

He partnered Mario Mandzukic, Fernando Torres and Diego Costa among others during his time at the club, transforming himself from a speedy winger to a centre forward with predatory instincts in the penalty area, as well as harbouring plenty of creative talents.

Though he played more games (54) and scored more goals (32) during the 2015-16 season, Griezmann's finest campaign at Atleti arguably came in 2017-18.

His tally of 19 LaLiga strikes was 11 more than any other Atleti player as he finished sixth in the scoring charts overall.

Griezmann added another 10 goals across the cup competitions, however, including a brace in the Europa League final to help Atleti beat Marseille 3-0 in Lyon.

Only Griezmann got into double figures for Atleti in terms of assists (13), while only Koke (81) created more chances than his total of 65.

Griezmann was clinical when opportunities came his way too, converting 52.38 per cent of the 42 "big chances" (an opportunity defined as one where they player should score) that were crafted for him, while he ranked top for attempts (124) as he averaged a goal every 133 minutes.

To cap off an exceptional domestic campaign, Griezmann put in a man-of-the-match display as France beat Croatia 4-2 in the 2018 World Cup final.

 

PAST HIS BEST?

After making much of his call to stay put at Atleti – he took part in a mini-documentary to confirm his decision before the 2018 World Cup – Griezmann completed a €120million switch to Barca a year later.

It was not without controversy: Atleti insisted Barca had fallen some €80m short of the obligated fee, but the transfer was nevertheless upheld.

His first season at Camp Nou was one to forget, eventually ending with a humbling 8-2 Champions League defeat to Bayern Munich on home soil.

Griezmann came into his second season with a renewed sense of purpose and finally seemed to click under new boss Ronald Koeman. Playing 51 times in all competitions, including making 45 starts, he clocked up 3,904 minutes in total - the second most he has managed in a campaign since moving to Atletico.

A total of 20 goals sees him fall some way short of the 29 he managed in 2017-18, though his 12 assists come close to matching his Atleti peak.

His expected assists (xA) total of 8.99 does suggest the quality of opportunities he created was perhaps not wholly responsible for his final total. Given he was linking up with Messi, this is perhaps no surprise. It was, though, also the case in 2017-18, with Griezmann tallying an expected assists figure of 6.3, suggesting his Atleti team-mates were finishing chances they may not have been expected to.

Griezmann created more chances (67) last term than in his 2017-18 season, though his conversion rate of gilt-edged opportunities dropped to 39.39 per cent.

Only in 2018-19 (15.11) did Griezmann have a lower shot conversion rate than last term (18.02) while there was no international glory for him this time around either – he scored once as France dropped out of Euro 2020 in the last 16.

 

BACK WHERE HE BELONGS?

Griezmann was the main man at Atleti but had to play in the shadow of Messi at Barca, not to mention Luis Suarez before he moved on to Madrid.

Barca sold Suarez to Atleti last year and, well, the rest is history – the former Liverpool star scored 21 league goals as Atleti clinched their second title under Simeone.

Griezmann's haul of 13 goals would have put him as Atleti's second-highest scorer in LaLiga last term, four ahead of the next forward in Angel Correa, though midfielder Marcos Llorente plundered 12 in a more advanced role.

Of Atleti players, only Llorente (11), Yannick Carrasco (10) and Correa (8) provided more league assists than Griezmann's seven from 42 chances created in total.

While he has failed to score or create a single opportunity across Barca's three league games so far this season, Simeone must surely be confident he can get Griezmann operating at somewhere close to his former glory.

With city rivals Real Madrid failing to land Kylian Mbappe in the transfer window, Atleti will surely fancy their chances of reigning in Spain once again.

Antoine Griezmann has rejoined Atletico Madrid from Barcelona on loan, just two years after leaving the Wanda Metropolitano.

Atleti sold France striker Griezmann to Barca for €120million in 2019, yet he has never managed to recapture his best form at Camp Nou.

Lionel Messi's departure to Paris Saint-Germain earlier in August might have given Griezmann the opportunity to take centre stage, but the 30-year-old received flak from the Barca fans as Ronald Koeman's side - inspired by Memphis Depay - laboured to a win over Getafe last weekend.

Koeman defended Griezmann, saying: "I don't like it when a Barca player is whistled. Someone who works like Antoine can never be criticised.

"All the attackers can have their day but there are games where you can't find the space. We haven't created opportunities for him either."

However, LaLiga champions Atleti – who were linked with their former talisman last month – have now brought Griezmann back to the Spanish capital.

Griezmann has signed on loan for 2021-22, with the deal including the option for either club to extend it for a further year. Barca also announced there is a compulsory permanent transfer clause.

While his exit will go towards easing Barca's financial difficulties, Atleti are bolstering an attack that already features Luis Suarez, Joao Felix and Angel Correa, as well as another new recruit in Matheus Cunha.

Atleti president Enrique Cerezo suggested last month that fans would not forgive Griezmann for how he left for Barca, who had reportedly been open to offers for the forward for some time, potentially allowing them to retain Messi.

 

GRIEZMANN'S BARCA STINT BY THE NUMBERS

After making much of his call to stay put at Atleti – he took part in a mini-documentary to confirm his decision before the 2018 World Cup – Griezmann completed a big-money switch a year later.

It was not without controversy, though, as Atleti insisted Barca had fallen some €80m short of the obligated fee, but the transfer was nevertheless upheld.

His first season at Camp Nou was one to forget. The coronavirus pandemic merely prolonging a dismal campaign by Griezmann's previously lofty standards – the nadir for all involved coming in the humbling 8-2 Champions League defeat to Bayern Munich.

Yet Griezmann came into his second campaign with a renewed sense of purpose and finally seemed to click under new boss Koeman.

While still having to fit in around key man Messi, Griezmann played 51 times in all competitions, making 45 starts and clocking up 3,904 minutes in total (the second most he has managed in a campaign since his move to Atleti).

Griezmann recorded 20 goals and added 12 assists last season, while his 20 goal involvements in LaLiga trailing only Messi in Barca's squad.

He had started in all three of Barca's LaLiga fixtures so far this season, too, but had failed to score, provide an assist or even create a chance in those appearances.

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