Antoine Griezmann said LaLiga champions Barcelona will improve as the season is long following Friday's shock loss to Athletic Bilbao.

Barca opened their title defence with a late 1-0 defeat away to Athletic at San Mames, where the holders succumbed to Aritz Aduriz's dramatic acrobatics.

Aduriz came off the bench and scored a stunning 89th-minute overhead kick to condemn Griezmann to a losing league debut for Barca.

"We have time," Griezmann, who arrived from Atletico Madrid, said after the match.

"The season is long and we have to work towards the next game.

"We have to work because that's the only way we'll improve."

Griezmann underwhelmed in his LaLiga bow for Barca – the €120million signing struggled to make an impact in the absence of injured captain Lionel Messi.

"We lacked what costs the most in football," the France star added.  "That last pass, that cross or that overlap."

Barca's defeat was compounded by an injury to veteran forward Luis Suarez, who was forced to leave the match in the first half.

Suarez suffered a muscle injury just after the half-hour mark, and Griezmann said: "Let's just see how he is and if he can play against [Real] Betis.

Barca – seeking a third consecutive LaLiga title – will travel to Real Betis on August 25.

 

Barcelona head coach Ernesto Valverde said Antoine Griezmann has to come into play more following his underwhelming league bow for the LaLiga champions.

Griezmann made his first LaLiga appearance for Barca, who suffered a shock 1-0 defeat to Athletic Bilbao in their opening fixture Friday.

A €120million signing from Atletico Madrid, all eyes were on Griezmann, but he struggled to make an impact in absence of captain Lionel Messi, while Luis Suarez's first-half injury left him isolated.

"If he's near the area, he is decisive and moves well, but you have to dominate the game for that to happen," Valverde told reporters.

"Putting him on the left side, we know that you are going to focus on the goal, but we have a side and players that can hold the game.

"Of course, he is aware that we all expect a lot from many players and have to seek to get more into the game."

Suarez left San Mames just after the half-hour mark due to an apparent calf injury away to Athletic.

The Uruguayan veteran had to be substituted moments after hitting the post, which would have given two-time reigning champions Barca the lead.

Valverde added: "He has a muscular problem and we have to wait for the tests. In the second half, when we were around Athletic's area, we missed him."

Barca eventually succumbed to Athletic, who triumphed thanks to veteran Aritz Aduriz's stunning overhead kick in the 89th minute.

The 38-year-old made an immediate impact off the bench, meeting Ander Capa's cross in sensational fashion to seal all three points.

"With Aduriz, any ball in the air is a danger and he got his goal," former Athletic boss Valverde said.

"That move is dominant, and he's scored similar goals. When I saw him line it up... I wasn't surprised with the execution at all."

Barcelona lost Luis Suarez to injury as a stunning late goal from Aritz Aduriz secured a 1-0 win for Athletic Bilbao in Friday's LaLiga opener.

With Lionel Messi missing with a calf problem and Philippe Coutinho left out amid talks with Bayern Munich over a loan move, the Catalans were found wanting in attack against coach Ernesto Valverde's old club.

Antoine Griezmann and Frenkie de Jong made their league debuts for the champions, but there was little for them to celebrate as the 2019-20 season got off to a lacklustre start at San Mames.

The loss of Suarez to a first-half muscle problem only compounded what proved a frustrating outing for the visitors, who twice hit the woodwork before Aduriz's 89th-minute overhead kick secured all three points.

 

Antoine Griezmann will make his LaLiga debut for Barcelona against Athletic Bilbao on Friday, but Philippe Coutinho is not involved.

The France international, who joined from Atletico Madrid for €120million in the close season, starts in attack alongside Luis Suarez and Ousmane Dembele at San Mames.

There is no place in the squad for Coutinho, who continues to be linked with a move away from Barca.

The latest reports in Spain suggest the Brazil international, also said to have been offered to Paris Saint-Germain as a makeweight in a possible deal for Neymar, could be preparing to travel to Germany to finalise a loan move to Bayern Munich.

Frenkie de Jong makes his first league outing for Barca and lines up alongside Sergi Roberto and Carles Alena in midfield, while Sergio Busquets, Samuel Umtiti and Ivan Rakitic are named among the substitutes.

Lionel Messi will not feature due to a calf injury that kept the club captain out of Barca's friendly matches against Napoli in the United States last week.

Zinedine Zidane must have anticipated problems when he returned as Real Madrid coach in March, but whether he predicted the shambles that has since come to envelop the club is unclear.

Poor pre-season form, rumours of a power struggle with the president emanating from a farcical handling of Gareth Bale's future, uncertainty over new signings – these are all issues on Zidane's plate heading into the 2019-20 LaLiga season.

Madrid finished a whopping 19 points adrift of Barca last season, and the champions certainly don't appear any weaker. Even Atletico Madrid, amid a major rebuild, look better prepared than their neighbours.

Although few will be surprised if Los Blancos fall apart again as they did last term, this season there is at least a little uncertainty surrounding their rivals – could Antoine Griezmann be a disruptive influence at Barca? Will Atletico cope with so much upheaval?

 

Power struggle engulfing a disorganised Real Madrid

Madrid and their fans were supposed to be reinvigorated during the close season, with the transfer business expected to see the squad boosted, deadwood offloaded and supporters excited.

While Eden Hazard will surely thrill, little certainty can be garnered from the rest of their signings. Ferland Mendy has struggled with injury, Eder Militao and Rodrygo are inexperienced and Luka Jovic is reported to have already left Zidane underwhelmed, sparking rumours of a loan exit.

Furthermore, Madrid's outgoings raise questions about their vision. Sergio Reguilon, Dani Ceballos, Jesus Vallejo, Borja Mayoral, Theo Hernandez, Marcos Llorente and Raul de Tomas – all young, all Spanish and all gone.

James Rodriguez and Gareth Bale remain, however, with the latter reportedly at the centre of a power struggle. Zidane wants him out, president Perez doesn't.

How much of an impact the growing tension has on the season remains to be seen, but it cannot help ease the pressure Zidane is under following disappointing pre-season results and winning just 45 per cent of his matches in charge last term.

Compared to Santiago Solari's win percentage of 69, it's fair to say Zidane hasn't been a positive force of change yet. He might not be given the time to turn things around.

 

Simeone's Atletico 2.0

Rarely under Diego Simeone have Atletico been a thrill to watch in the conventional sense, mostly shirking all-out attacking tendencies and relying on a stable, full-blooded defence.

Don't expect that to change despite the most significant overhaul in Simeone's time at the helm, with Griezmann, Diego Godin, Juanfran, Filipe Luis, Lucas Hernandez and Rodri all moving on.

Simeone accepts things will be slightly different given the sheer scale of the changes, but he is not sparing newcomers of his exhaustive methods.

"We must be realistic," he told La Nacion recently. "It will be a moment of renewal. We are going to have to reinvent ourselves, so we have to think only of the day-to-day.

"Perhaps over time that [attitude] has faded, so now we will have to redouble our philosophy."

Atletico's dealings have generally been quite shrewd, if we ignore the somewhat risky signing of the inexperienced – albeit hugely talented – Joao Felix for €126m.

Kieran Trippier and Renan Lodi are very much in the mould of the full-backs they've replaced; Marcos Llorente and Hector Herrera offer a typical Simeone blend of tenacity and technique; Felipe is experienced, and Mario Hermoso was one of LaLiga's best centre-backs last term.

Early indications are encouraging, particularly after that 7-3 pre-season drubbing of Madrid.

 

'La Decision', the sequel

If you didn't get enough of the Antoine Griezmann soap opera last year, by now you're surely sick of the sight of him.

The contrived and ill-conceived 'La Decision' video documenting his agonising over a choice between Atletico or Barca just before the World Cup did little to endear him to either set of supporters, even though he opted to remain in Madrid for another season.

After finally getting the move he reportedly desired in 2018, the pressure couldn't be greater for Griezmann. By all accounts, he had an underwhelming final campaign at the Wanda Metropolitano, with 15 goals in 37 LaLiga games.

A few poor games and Barca supporters – who were widely reticent to the idea of Griezmann signing after last year's debacle – will be straight on his back.

A cursory glance at their treatment of Philippe Coutinho shows what could be in store for him.

But either way, Griezmann does add further depth to an already star-studded line-up of attackers and such a move may provide the jolt he needs to again elevate himself to the level of the world's best.

Despite his relative lack of experience compared to Griezmann, Frenkie de Jong looks more of a ready-made success and will surely take LaLiga by storm following his move from Ajax.

Avid Football Manager fan Antoine Griezmann has revealed his latest virtual all-star Arsenal side - but there is no room for France team-mate Alexandre Lacazette.

Griezmann has often posted updates on social media channels to show off his achievements in the popular game.

The Barcelona forward got Arsenal supporters excited in April when he uploaded a screenshot of his latest save as Gunners manager, with Lacazette spearheading his attack.

But Lacazette was nowhere to be seen in the 2023 squad, with the 28-year-old learning from Griezmann that he had been unceremoniously sold to Huddersfield Town for £23.5million.

Lacazette did at least enjoy huge success before his move northwards, having helped his side to Premier League and Champions League triumphs.

Joao Felix, who made the switch to Atletico Madrid in real life as a replacement for Griezmann, is joined by the likes of Jadon Sancho, Frenkie de Jong, Bruno Fernandes, Raphael Varane and Matthijs de Ligt in the star-studded XI.

Napoli coach Carlo Ancelotti said an intense month of pre-season training and friendlies had left his players "tired" in their 4-0 defeat to Barcelona, but he insisted his squad is ready for the new Serie A season.

Second-half goals from Antoine Griezmann and Ousmane Dembele, along with a brace from Luis Suarez after the break, earned Barcelona a convincing win in Michigan, though Ancelotti claimed the opening two strikes should not have stood.

Suarez buried the rebound after a Griezmann shot was saved in the 48th minute, and the Frenchman scored himself eight minutes later after a pass from Jordi Alba, who appeared to be in an offside position.

Ancelotti defended his side's performance, telling reporters: "We played well in the first half but then we were affected by those two offside goals at the start of the second half.

"We were up against a magnificent team and afterwards they took control, but those two goals shouldn't have been given and they changed the match.

"I think we were also a little tired due to the heavy training loads after a month of intense work. I don't see any problems other than that."

Napoli travel to Fiorentina for their Serie A season opener on August 24 having won three, lost three, and drawn one of their pre-season friendlies.

Despite their mixed form and relatively modest activity in the transfer market, with three of their six major signings being goalkeepers, Ancelotti remains optimistic about Napoli's chances of improving on their second-placed finish in 2018-19.

"My general impression is good after these two matches with Barcelona," he said, reflecting on Saturday's defeat and the 2-1 reverse in their previous outing against the Blaugrana.

"We'll build on this as we continue to work towards the start of the season.

"I'm happy with the work we've done both on our training camp and in these international friendlies we've played. We have a top-quality squad and I'm sure we can have an excellent season.

"I've seen a lot of things I like from the lads and the overall feeling is positive. We'll be ready when the season begins on 24 August."

Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde believes it is "difficult" to see Lionel Messi returning from injury for his side's LaLiga opener against Athletic Bilbao on Friday.

Messi, 32, missed Barcelona's trip to the United States, where they claimed two wins over Napoli, due to a calf strain.

The forward appears set to miss his team's league opener at Bilbao, with Valverde saying it was hard to see the star returning for the clash.

"He's in the recovery process and I don't know if he will be ready for the start of LaLiga," he told a news conference after a 4-0 win over Napoli in Michigan on Saturday.

"It's looking difficult."

Despite Messi's absence, Barca produced a strong performance in their final pre-season friendly against Napoli.

Antoine Griezmann scored his first goal for the club, Luis Suarez netted a brace and Ousmane Dembele was also on the scoresheet in a comfortable win.

Valverde was pleased to see Griezmann, who arrived from Atletico Madrid for €120million in July, get off the mark for Barca.

"The scorers always feed on the opportunities, the goals. We are happy with him," he said.

"He gives us a lot for unchecking and defensively works well."

A stylish second half from Barcelona saw them sweep aside Napoli in Michigan to claim a 4-0 friendly win on Saturday.

Antoine Griezmann got his first goal for the club since his €120million move from Atletico Madrid, in between strikes from Luis Suarez.

Ousmane Dembele added a fourth against Carlo Ancelotti's side, who lost the first friendly meeting in Miami 2-1 on Wednesday and were simply no match for the Catalans here once they fell behind.

It was an encouraging display from Ernesto Valverde's Barca, without the injured Lionel Messi, ahead of their LaLiga opener at Athletic Bilbao on Friday.

Griezmann dragged a clear chance wide and Dembele also fluffed his lines as Barca failed to capitalise on their first-half openings.

Suarez was denied by Alex Meret, but Fabian Ruiz went within inches of giving Napoli a lead at the break.

Griezmann spurned another chance three minutes after the break, firing straight at Meret, but Suarez was on hand this time to side-foot home the rebound.

Barca turned on the style for their second eight minutes later. A passing move starting from the back four ended with Carles Alena sliding a superb throughball to Jordi Alba – perhaps fortunate not to be flagged for offside – who squared for Griezmann to bury an easy finish.

It got worse for Napoli just two minutes later, as Dembele picked up Suarez's pass from a loose ball and teed up the Uruguay star for a stunning curling strike that flew past Meret from the edge of the box.

Dembele marked a strong second-half showing by driving into the penalty area and drilling a right-foot strike into the bottom-left corner, ensuring Barca will head into the new season in positive fashion.

Barcelona head coach Ernesto Valverde believes Philippe Coutinho will remain with the LaLiga champions, but admitted he was unsure.

Coutinho, 27, has been linked with a return to the Premier League, a year and a half after joining Barca from Liverpool for a reported €114million (£105m).

The Brazil international is reportedly a target for Tottenham, Manchester United and Arsenal, with the transfer window in England shutting on Thursday.

Valverde is far from certain about Coutinho's future, but he thinks the attacker will stay at Camp Nou.

"We do not know what will happen, but Philippe is a player who is with us," he told a news conference after Wednesday's 2-1 friendly win over Napoli.

"He has not played but the plan we have with him is the same. We'll see if he plays a few minutes on Saturday.

"But he is a player who is with us and we have him, of course. He is with us and we think he will continue with us.

"In all these transfer windows there is talk of many things."

Goals from Sergio Busquets and Ivan Rakitic helped Barcelona to their win over Napoli in Florida.

Antoine Griezmann featured for a half for Barca, but the former Atletico Madrid star is yet to score in four pre-season outings for his new club.

"He has made a great first half, but maybe we have missed playing with some more rhythm," Valverde said about the France forward.

"I had thought he would play at home like Luis [Suarez] and on Saturday he will play again."

Lionel Messi claimed he has no regrets about pledging to win the Champions League last season and promised Barcelona would "fight again for everything" as he gave his captain's address at Camp Nou.

Barcelona were knocked out of the Champions League by eventual winners Liverpool in a dramatic semi-final in May but ended the season as LaLiga champions for the second successive campaign.

Ahead of Barca's 2-1 victory over Arsenal in the Joan Gamper Trophy, five-time Ballon d'Or winner Messi addressed the crowd on Sunday.

Messi did not play in the match, having only returned from holiday, but took the opportunity to outline his hopes for the new season and reflect on the club's achievements during his time in Catalonia.

"It's hard to say something after last season, but I don't regret anything," said Messi. "But I have no doubt that together we are going to fight again for everything.

"We won eight league titles in 11 years. We do not give it the value it deserves but over the years we will see how difficult it was."

Barcelona will play two more friendly matches against Napoli before the new season gets underway with a trip to Athletic Bilbao on August 16.

Ernesto Valverde has added Antoine Griezmann, Frenkie de Jong, Neto, Junior Firpo and Emerson to his squad in a spending spree that has cost the club more than €200million, and Messi was in a determined mood ahead of the new campaign.

"This club fights for everything and this year will be no different," he said.

"We have renewed dreams. Visca Barca and Visca Catalunya!"

Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone bears no ill feeling towards Antoine Griezmann following his move to Barcelona, and is adamant it was better to leave when he did instead of staying and potentially ruining their relationship.

Simeone is overseeing a major rebuild at Atletico this close season, with Griezmann one of several key players to leave the club.

Filipe Luis, Diego Godin, Lucas Hernandez, Rodri and Juanfran have also left, with Atletico bringing in Felipe, Mario Hermoso, Hector Herrera, Renan Lodi, Marcos Llorente and Kieran Trippier as replacements, while Joao Felix is tasked with filling Griezmann's boots.

Godin, Filipe Luis, Juanfran and Fernando Torres have all received great send-offs from Atletico supporters in the last 14 months, but Griezmann was widely jeered after confirming his intention to leave in May.

Simeone puts the indifference partly down to longevity at the club, while accepting Griezmann probably chose a good time to seek a new challenge.

"Because it wasn't the same time [at the club]," he told La Nacion when asked why Griezmann did not get the same send-off as Godin and Torres.

"His time was significant from a sporting perspective. The others, in another way, have lit up the hearts of Atletico fans.

"The numbers of Antoine are tremendous. In five years, he was among the five top scorers in the history of the club.

"When he came to talk to me about his departure, I already sensed it. I think he looked for the most appropriate moment in his search to keep improving.

"He is young, he has talent, he is an extraordinary boy whom I love very much, and the best way to maintain this affection is from respect.

"I understand that others also have needs. As long as others have needs that do not alter mine, it is great. If the needs of he who remains alter my needs, we may not end up as friends anymore."

Diego Costa's return to form and fitness could prove more valuable for Atletico Madrid than their eight new signings, according to team-mate Saul Niguez.

Five pre-season goals - including four and a red card in the stunning 7-3 thrashing of rivals Real Madrid - suggest the controversial striker is getting back to his best.

He managed just 16 appearances in LaLiga last term due to a combination of injuries, Alvaro Morata's arrival and a season-ending eight-game ban for insulting a referee.

Costa still has one match of that suspension to serve but looks to be enjoying a new lease of life after two lean campaigns.

"Diego looks great to me," Spain midfielder Saul told Spanish radio station COPE.

"I love it when he's like this, [because his attitude is] infectious. He's a player we need at all times.

"I love that he defends his team-mates as he did against Madrid, that he fights for the shirt and I think that if Diego Costa is at his best level he will be the best signing we have."

Atletico need Costa to remain among the goals as they seek to compensate for the loss of Antoine Griezmann, who scored no fewer than 15 in any of his five LaLiga seasons with the club.

Though his departure for Barcelona had long been expected, Saul admitted to being taken aback.

"I was surprised," the 24-year-old said. "He was a very important player and for him to leave is difficult. Atleti is above any player and when he wore the shirt there was nothing to reproach him for.

"He may not have left in the best way but we shouldn't crush him either."

Antoine Griezmann and Neymar are not on the shortlist for The Best FIFA Men's Player award, with Barcelona team-mate Lionel Messi up against Cristiano Ronaldo and Eden Hazard for this year's prize.

Griezmann completed his long-awaited €120million transfer to the Spanish champions in July but his 15-goal contribution to Atletico Madrid's second-place finish in the 2018-19 LaLiga table was not enough to impress FIFA's panel.

Liverpool trio Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Virgil van Dijk are in contention after helping the Reds to glory in last season's Champions League, while Matthijs de Ligt and Frenkie de Jong have been recognised for their part in helping Ajax to the semi-finals and to a domestic title.

There is no place for 2018 winner and Ballon d'Or holder Luka Modric, nor his Real Madrid team-mate Gareth Bale, and Neymar misses out while Paris Saint-Germain colleague Kylian Mbappe is among the nominees.

 

 

The Best FIFA Men's Player nominees:

Cristiano Ronaldo (Juventus)
Frenkie De Jong (Barcelona)
Matthijs de Ligt (Juventus)
Eden Hazard (Real Madrid)
Harry Kane (Tottenham)
Sadio Mane (Liverpool)
Kylian Mbappe (Paris Saint-Germain)
Lionel Messi (Barcelona)
Mohmed Salah (Liverpool)
Virgil van Dijk (Liverpool)

Antoine Griezmann will quickly prove to be a "very important player" at Barcelona, according to ex-team-mate and former Real Madrid man Asier Illarramendi.

Griezmann, who played with Illarramendi at Real Sociedad, has left Atletico Madrid after five years in the capital to join Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez at Camp Nou.

The World Cup winner is the latest big-money Barca recruit since Neymar's sale to Paris Saint-Germain in 2017, with Ousmane Dembele and Philippe Coutinho - each bought for over €100million - failing to sparkle so far.

But Illarramendi does not see Griezmann having any issues fitting in with the Blaugrana after his work rate was honed by Atleti coach Diego Simeone.

"I think Griezmann has already shown what a good player he is," Illarramendi told Omnisport. "It is clear that he will contribute a lot to Barca.

"He works well, as we've already seen with Cholo [Simeone], as well as scoring goals, and I think he will be a very important player for Barca."

At Real Sociedad this season Illarramendi is set to link up with Martin Odegaard, another midfielder who struggled to have an impact for Madrid.

Odegaard became Madrid's youngest ever player in LaLiga when he featured at 16 in 2015 but he has yet to kick on, with a loan move to La Real hoped to provide a platform.

Illarramendi said of the 20-year-old: "I met him four years ago - I think he was 16 at the time - he was young and I was young, too. You could see he had good manners and he was a high quality player.

"Now four years have passed, he has already competed in the Dutch league.

"Even though we haven't played many games, you can see with the ball that he's a guy who has a lot of quality; without the ball, he also works very well.

"He has commitment, he works very well and I believe it'll be a good year for him."

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