Josep Maria Bartomeu's ultimately unpopular tenure as Barcelona president has finally come to an end after the club's entire board resigned.

Barca won the treble in his first full season in charge in 2014-15, led by the thrilling front three of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez.

But it seems unlikely Bartomeu's time as the top man at Camp Nou will be remembered for that success.

Barca subsequently suffered humiliation after humiliation in the Champions League, reaching a remarkable crescendo with August's 8-2 quarter-final demolition at the hands of eventual champions Bayern Munich.

However, it was Bartomeu's failings in the transfer market that helped put the Catalan giants in such a position.

While Neymar left and then Lionel Messi pushed for a move of his own, Barca recruited in disappointing if often spectacular fashion.

Not all of Bartomeu's signings were poor, but we look at the 10 permanent deals that defined his reign.

 

Marc-Andre ter Stegen – €12m from Borussia Monchengladbach

That stunning first season of on-field triumphs came after an excellent summer transfer window, although Ter Stegen was restricted to Champions League action initially as fellow new man Claudio Bravo started in LaLiga. Germany international Ter Stegen quickly proved his worth in the 2014-15 European campaign, keeping a joint-high six clean sheets courtesy of 31 saves, while trailing only Manuel Neuer for successful passes (245) and passing accuracy (80 per cent) among goalkeepers.

Ivan Rakitic – €18m from Sevilla

Another to join in the €165m spending spree of 2014, Rakitic only departed this year to return to Sevilla. The midfielder was a consistent performer throughout his time at Camp Nou, yet perhaps his best season was reserved for his first 12 months at Barca. He scored five times in LaLiga and laid on seven assists – the most in his Barca career – from 35 chances created.

Luis Suarez – €81m from Liverpool

The most important and surely best signing of Bartomeu's tenure followed in that same transfer window as Barca prised Suarez from Liverpool after their failed Premier League title bid in which he netted 31 times. That same scoring form continued in LaLiga, where Suarez struck up a great partnership and friendship with Messi. The Uruguay international left for Atletico Madrid prior to the 2020-21 campaign – a key factor in the ongoing Barca crisis – having scored 198 goals for the club, trailing only Messi and Cesar Rodriguez. Suarez scored a sensational 40 LaLiga goals in 2015-16, along with 16 assists and 23 tackles, typifying his work rate. All three were high marks for his Barca career.

Thomas Vermaelen – €18m from Arsenal

Along with Ter Stegen, Rakitic and Suarez, though, came a signing that would prove more in keeping with much of the rest of the work done under Bartomeu. Vermaelen cost a decent fee, was scarcely fit and rarely looked like troubling the starting XI when he was. He made just 26 LaLiga starts in five years at Barca.

Andre Gomes – €35m from Valencia

After making just two signings in 2015-16, Barca were busy in the market again the following campaign. A combination of form and fitness meant few if any of the 2016-17 signings could be considered successes, but Gomes was perhaps the worst. Signed for a fee that could have risen to €55m, he scored three goals and provided one assist in the league across two seasons before leaving for Everton.

Ousmane Dembele – €105m from Borussia Dortmund

Barca's dealings had been questionable even before they sold Neymar, but the money brought in for the Brazilian then appeared to burn a hole in the pocket of Bartomeu, who proceeded to spend it in a series of unsuccessful ways. Dembele seemed a reasonable enough replacement for Neymar but injuries disrupted his progress. He has supplied just 12 goals and 11 assists in the league since signing, although he remains at Camp Nou.

Philippe Coutinho – €120m from Liverpool

Barca tried for Coutinho when Neymar first left and returned for the Liverpool star again in January. Yet the Blaugrana did not appear to have a role made for the playmaker, sticking to a 4-3-3 formation that forced him out wide or deep in the midfield. Another still at Barca, a reasonable enough initial return of eight goals and five assists from 29 chances created in the remainder of his first season did not provide a platform for success. He spent last season on loan at Bayern and scored twice in the humbling of his parent club.

Malcom – €41m from Bordeaux

As Barca went big again in 2018-19, there appeared to be a third attempt at replacing Neymar. Malcom was just 21 and should have been one for the future but did not last long. A single season brought one goal and two assists before he left for Zenit.

Antoine Griezmann – €120m from Atletico Madrid

Project replace Neymar: part four. With attempts to bring the PSG number 10 himself back to Barca failing, a long-awaited move for Griezmann was instead completed. A World Cup winner who led the line for one of Barca's biggest domestic rivals, Griezmann certainly had the pedigree but has so far struggled to work with Messi in attack. The pair are yet to create a single chance for one another in LaLiga this season and have combined on just 23 passes.

Martin Braithwaite – €18m from Leganes

Braithwaite is evidently delighted to be at Barca, but perhaps that is the problem. It is a stunning indictment of Bartomeu's tenure that Ronald Koeman had to turn to the Denmark international in a bid to rescue last week's Clasico defeat. He now wears the number nine shirt that belonged to Suarez.

Antoine Griezmann has been urged to cut his losses and leave Barcelona by former France left-back Bixente Lizarazu. 

After joining Barca from Atletico Madrid for €120million in July 2019, Griezmann scored 15 goals in 48 appearances in all competitions last season – his worse return since 2012-13 with Real Sociedad. 

The 29-year-old attacker averaged one LaLiga goal every 285 minutes for the Blaugrana, way below his best return of one every 112 minutes for Atletico in 2014-15. 

He has been vocal about his frustration at playing on the right wing since Ronald Koeman took over as Barca coach in August and only played eight minutes off the bench in the 3-1 Clasico defeat to Real Madrid on Saturday, having been an unused substitute in the midweek thrashing of Ferencvaros. 

World Cup-winning left-back Lizarazu believes Griezmann, who is reportedly set for a new contract at Camp Nou, should look to move on before his situation deteriorates any further. 

"Griezmann is great. He's a very, very good player and he's fantastic for France. But he isn't at all for Barcelona. This is a real problem," Lizarazu said on Telefoot on Sunday. 

"He went to Barcelona with a dream of playing with Lionel Messi, but unfortunately there is no technical relationship between the two. 

"He cannot find his position, he can no longer player football with Barca. It's a crisis of confidence. 

"At some point it is better to cut off your hand than your arm. Do not hesitate to leave when you cannot find your place. 

"It's been 18 months, not just two... the situation is really critical." 

Griezmann and Messi are yet to create a single chance for one another in LaLiga this season, though the Barca captain has provided one key pass each to Francisco Trincao and Gerard Pique, two to Ansu Fati and three to Philippe Coutinho.

They have also combined on just 23 passes, with Messi having shared more with Fati (35), Frenkie de Jong (39), Jordi Alba (47), Sergi Roberto (54), Coutinho (55) and Sergio Busquets (109).

Manchester United have reportedly joined the race for Adama Traore, while Antoine Griezmann looks set to stay at Barcelona.

Traore has been linked with numerous European heavyweights after starring at Wolves, and the speculation around the winger's future continues.

It seems another Premier League giant is interested.

 

TOP STORY – MAN UTD JOIN RACE FOR TRAORE

Manchester United are the latest club to be interested in Wolves star Traore, according to Mundo Deportivo.

Liverpool, Manchester City, Barcelona and Juventus have all previously been linked with moves for the Spain international.

Traore, 24, is without a goal or an assist in five Premier League games so far this season.

ROUND-UP

- Despite struggling to live up to expectations at Barcelona, Antoine Griezmann seems likely to stay with the LaLiga giants. L'Equipe says Barca have no plans to let the forward leave in January. Griezmann is yet to score or provide an assist in five LaLiga games this season.

- Liverpool are reportedly eyeing a replacement for Virgil van Dijk after the star defender's serious knee injury. The Mirror says the Premier League champions have opened talks with Schalke about a £20million (€22m) move for 20-year-old Turkey international Ozan Kabak in January.

- Houssem Aouar ended up staying at Lyon to begin the 2020-21 season, but the midfielder's future remains a talking point. Football.London says Arsenal – who were linked with Aouar throughout the close season – could make a fresh approach for the France international in January.

- Released by West Ham earlier this month, Jack Wilshere's future is uncertain. The Mirror reports the midfielder is considering a move to MLS.

Barcelona head coach Ronald Koeman "respects" Gerard Pique's opinion and has backed the defender to do his talking on the pitch in Saturday's clash with Real Madrid.

La Vanguardia published an explosive interview with Pique on the eve of the first Clasico of the season in which the long-serving defender heavily criticised his club.

The 33-year-old hit out at president Josep Maria Bartomeu in particular over his handling of Lionel Messi's contract saga and admitted Barca have gone backwards since 2015.

Pique did reserve some praise for new boss Koeman, however, and the Dutchman insisted he has no problem with the timing of the interview.

"He has been here for many years and I have been here for three months," Koeman said at a pre-match news conference on Friday ahead of the Camp Nou meeting with Madrid.

"He has his opinion and I respect it. He's smart and knows that if he does an interview of this type, tomorrow he will be ready and play well. I respect all opinions if he is involved."

Pique has been named in a 23-man squad that also includes the returning Jordi Alba and misfiring forward Antoine Griezmann, whose role in the side has been questioned.

Griezmann has yet to score, assist or create a single chance for one of his team-mates in LaLiga this term from four starts, but Koeman is expected to stick with the Frenchman.

"Like anyone he is available to play," Koeman said. "It is not good to discuss his role ahead of every game. We have many more players and want everyone at their best level.

"The team is always the most important thing and we choose the best players for each match."

Griezmann's poor return is in stark contrast to Ansu Fati, the teenage attacker having scored four goals in five appearances this term - more than any other Barca player.

Fellow youngster Vinicius Junior has also been in good form, scoring in three of his last four appearances, and Koeman can see both players getting better over time.

"We know that they are two very good players despite their age," he said. 

"They are learning many things and their trajectory is going very fast. For me the age of the player is not important - what matters to me is their performance.

"Ansu Fati will be a star in the future, but he must work and develop. We will support him to be one of the best in the world, and we will do the same with the other youngsters."

Barca, who like Madrid suffered a surprise defeat in their last league outing, are seeking a first Clasico win in three attempts.

The Catalan giants have failed to score in the last two Clasicos and Koeman acknowledged the importance of picking up a positive result this weekend to rebuild confidence.

"It is important, of course," he said. "The players deserve it for the work they are doing every day. They show a lot of ambition and have started playing in another system. 

"They have shown ambition and hunger. A game against Madrid is always something a bit more. If you win a match, everything is easier."

Antoine Griezmann could be set to renew his contract at Barcelona.

The France international has faced criticism for failing to live up to expectations since joining Barca from Atletico Madrid last year.

However, Griezmann may join the list of players renewing with the LaLiga giants.

 

TOP STORY – GRIEZMANN SET FOR BARCELONA RENEWAL

Griezmann could be among the next group of players to renew at Barcelona, according to EFE.

It claims Sergio Busquets and Sergi Roberto may also re-sign, amid reports players are reducing their wages at the club.

It comes after Barcelona announced the re-signings of Marc-Andre ter Stegen, Gerard Pique, Frenkie de Jong and Clement Lenglet on Tuesday.

Griezmann scored 15 goals in 48 games for Barca last season, while he is yet to net in four appearances in 2020-21.

 

ROUND-UP

- A former Barcelona head coach could be set for a new job. Marca reports Palmeiras have made a move for Quique Setien after the departure of Vanderlei Luxemburgo.

- Despite signing Nathan Ake and Ruben Dias in the close season, Manchester City are reportedly look for another defender. Fabrizio Romano suggested the Premier League giants are monitoring Villarreal centre-back Pau Torres.

- Christian Eriksen's Inter future remains uncertain. CalcioMercato reports Inter turned down a loan bid from Borussia Dortmund in the close season, but the Serie A club could be open to the midfielder leaving in January.

- After Virgil van Dijk suffered a serious knee injury, Liverpool are linked with defenders. The Sun says Brighton and Hove Albion would demand at least £50million for Ben White if the Premier League champions make a move for the centre-back in January.

Real Madrid great Guti said he would sign Paris Saint-Germain duo Neymar and Kylian Mbappe for Los Blancos, while mocking Barcelona's Antoine Griezmann.

LaLiga champions Madrid have been heavily linked with a blockbuster move for PSG star Mbappe, who is out of contract in Paris at the end of the 2021-22 season.

Neymar, who swapped Barcelona for PSG in a world-record €222million deal in 2017, has previously been linked with Madrid.

As Madrid prepare for Saturday's Clasico against bitter rivals Barca at Camp Nou, Guti talked up Neymar and Mbappe while poking fun at Griezmann, who has struggled to establish himself since arriving from Atletico Madrid in 2019.

"I'd sign Neymar and Kylian Mbappe for Real Madrid and for Barcelona I wouldn't sign anyone, just for Griezmann to stay," Guti, 43, said as he laughed while discussing the Clasico.

"There are many great players in this game, but I'm going for the youngsters.

"Surely it'll be Ansu Fati at Barcelona and Vinicius [Junior] at Real Madrid [who can make an impact]. They're very talented players who are going to bring a lot to LaLiga."

Both Madrid and Barca will enter the Clasico on the back of LaLiga defeats, while the former were also stunned by Shakhtar Donetsk in the Champions League.

Madrid suffered a shock 1-0 loss to newly promoted Cadiz at the weekend and Lionel Messi's Barca succumbed to Getafe by the same scoreline.

Zinedine Zidane's Madrid are a point adrift of Real Sociedad with a game in hand, while Barca are ninth and four points off the pace, having played a game less.

"It won't determine who'll win LaLiga, but it is an important match," said Guti, who won five LaLiga titles and three Champions League trophies during his playing career at the Santiago Bernabeu. "Mentally, if a player does well or a team wins, then it can do you good for what is still to come in LaLiga.

"It's a test for both of these teams to see what level they're at and to see what they can achieve this year."

Lionel Messi is preventing Antoine Griezmann from expressing himself at Barcelona as the Frenchman continues to be overshadowed by the superstar captain, according to Arsene Wenger.

Griezmann arrived from LaLiga rivals Atletico Madrid in a blockbuster €120million transfer last year but he has struggled to establish himself alongside Messi at Camp Nou.

An unused substitute in Barca's 5-1 Champions League rout of Ferencvaros on Tuesday, Griezmann has failed to score in four LaLiga appearances this season – only managing one shot on target without creating a single chance.

While Messi has just one league goal, the six-time Ballon d'Or winner has registered seven shots on target and created six chances for his team-mates.

Former Arsenal manager Wenger believes France international Griezmann is being hindered by Messi's presence in his preferred central attacking position.

"Not playing at his position is complicated in the long term," Wenger told beIN SPORTS.  

"At the start, the guy accepts it but, if he does not meet his needs in the long term and he feels that the position does not allow him to express his qualities, he will become discouraged.

"Today, he is a player who must play in the centre because he has a great work rate, a precision in his passes. 

"He can be dangerous with the last pass and by scoring goals, but there is congestion because he is in the range of play of Messi."

In his first season with Barca last time out, Griezmann scored nine goals, supplied four assists and created 33 chances in 35 LaLiga appearances.

Griezmann finished 2019-20 with 15 goals in all competitions – a tumultuous campaign which saw Barca dethroned by bitter rivals Real Madrid and humiliated 8-2 by Bayern Munich in the Champions League quarter-finals.

The 29-year-old scored 133 goals in 257 games for Atletico between 2014 and 2019.

Philippe Coutinho's Champions League triumph with Bayern Munich can be a boost for Barcelona and Antoine Griezmann will find his best form, says Los Cules goalkeeper Neto.

Brazil playmaker Coutinho spent last term on loan at Bayern and won a Bundesliga, DFB-Pokal and Champions League treble – the latter triumph including a star turn off the bench in an 8-2 battering of Barca in the quarter-finals.

Even though Bayern opted not to make the move permanent, it still appeared as though Coutinho's future lay away from Camp Nou until Ronald Koeman's arrival as head coach signalled a fresh lease of life at Barca.

Coutinho has two assists and a goal, as well as an 88.96 per cent pass success rate, from four LaLiga games this season and compatriot Neto is delighted to see him back playing at Barca.

"I am happy to have a friend like Coutinho back in the squad, with his quality," he said at a news conference previewing Barca's Champions League opener against Ferencvaros. 

"He has shown his quality and that he is excited to return to the club. The Champions League title that he has won at Bayern will give him a lot of security and will give us a lot."

Conversely, Griezmann has endured a slow start to the campaign, failing to score, assist or even create a chance for a team-mate yet from four appearances.

Much was expected of Griezmann when he arrived from Atletico Madrid ahead of the 2019-20 campaign but the France World Cup winner has struggled for top form at Camp Nou.

Neto, though, offered his backing to his under-fire team-mate.

"I see Griezmann very well, as always, we know what this profession is like, sometimes things turn out better and others worse," he added. 

"But I see him happy and working in training and I'm sure he will continue to provide us with many things as before."

This week, it was reported Barca's squad had signed a burofax against a 30 per cent reduction to pay, with only three players apparently not putting their name to the document.

Barca announced big losses to revenue, largely due to the coronavirus pandemic, but Neto was reluctant to go into too much detail over the issue.

"On the salary issue, I think it would be incoherent to answer now," he said. 

"The whole squad and I are focused on the game and with being a personal and individual issue, each one has their opinion.

"The important thing now is the game and we are focused on getting a positive result."

Ronald Koeman suffered the first defeat of his reign as Barcelona failed to capitalise on a shock loss for Real Madrid, slipping to a 1-0 defeat at Getafe. 

With El Clasico looming on the horizon, reigning champions Madrid were stunned by newly promoted Cadiz as LaLiga resumed on Saturday following the international break.

However, Barca missed the chance to move level on points with their rivals ahead of next Saturday's showdown at Camp Nou. 

Jaime Mata's 56th-minute penalty was enough for Getafe to secure a first league win over their illustrious opponents since a similar 1-0 result back in November 2011, a run of 16 games. 

Lionel Messi struck a post and Getafe captain Djene Dakonam was spared from scoring an own goal by the crossbar, but - after starting his reign with back-to-back wins - Koeman has now seen his side pick up a solitary point from their next two outings, laying bare the size of the task on his hands. 

Ousmane Dembele made his first start of 2020 and there was also an opportunity handed to teenager Pedri from the outset, suggesting the new boss will show faith in youth during the rebuilding job required. 

Still, it is a big-money signing who will once again come under the spotlight, Antoine Griezmann squandering his team's best chance to leave him still without a goal at club level in the early stages of the 2020-21 season. 

The French forward wastefully blasted over when clean through in a first half consistently punctuated by the sound of referee Cesar Soto Grado's whistle, with five players shown yellow cards. 

Getafe had rarely threatened before Frenkie de Jong helped them out, the midfielder clumsily catching Dakonam inside the area as he rushed in attempting to win the ball. 

Mata duly converted from the spot – sending Neto the wrong way – and the dogged hosts held firm to their slender advantage through to the final whistle. 

In an eventful finish to proceedings not in keeping with the rest of the contest, Juan Hernandez blazed over at one end before Getafe were saved by the woodwork in stoppage time, Barca unable to find a late leveller their performance scarcely merited.

Antoine Griezmann has hinted at displeasure with his role at Barcelona under Ronald Koeman but the new head coach will not cave in.

During the international break France boss Didier Deschamps questioned Koeman's decision to deploy Griezmann on the right wing of a 4-2-3-1 during Barca's first three LaLiga games of 2020-21.

The 29-year-old has registered just one shot on target for the club this season and is yet to create a single chance for a team-mate.

After playing behind a front two of Anthony Martial and Kylian Mbappe in France's 2-1 win over Croatia on Wednesday, Griezmann told TF1: "The coach knows where to put me."

Koeman told reporters at a news conference to preview Saturday's meeting with Getafe that Griezmann must focus on producing his best display wherever he is used.

"Everyone has the right to say what they want. I spoke to him yesterday, but not because of what he said. We talked about his position and his performance," said Koeman on Friday.

"I seek what's best for the team, and if I think that he's better on the right wing with more freedom, that's it.

"He can also play as a number 10 or a nine, but in the end I decide for the good of the team and every player must give their maximum performance for the team."

Asked how Griezmann can improve, Koeman said: "He is doing all he can, which is to work hard, to be disciplined and have some luck. There were four or five attacks in which he had to do better.

"When I was Netherlands coach and we played France, he played on the right. No further discussion is needed on this topic. The coach is in charge and must get the most out of the players.

"I have no problem with Antoine. I never play anyone in a position they can't play. If there's another position that you like, well, we cannot play with 10 players in the number 10 position."

With a Champions League game against Ferencvaros and the first Clasico of the season against LaLiga champions Real Madrid to come next week, Koeman does not intend to use the Getafe game to rest Lionel Messi.

Messi played 180 minutes – including 90 at an altitude of 3,650 metres in La Paz – as Argentina began their 2022 World Cup qualifying campaign with wins over Ecuador and Bolivia.

"It always depends on the player. I ask how they are, if they are tired. This afternoon we have our last training session and we will decide the team for tomorrow," said Koeman.

"He is a player who if he does not play is more tired. He's a winner who always wants to play, but I want to talk with him and the others and see how they are physically.

"He has been playing a very tight schedule for many years. If there is a medical issue or fatigue it is different, but he is capable of playing the next important games that lie ahead."

First-choice goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen is yet to feature this season after undergoing surgery on his knee and was reportedly aiming to return in time for El Clasico.

However, Koeman does not expect Ter Stegen to be ready for the meeting with Madrid.

"Since Tuesday, he has been training on the pitches and everything is going well for now," said Koeman.

"I don't think he'll be ready for the Clasico. There is no need to set a date. He is a great goalkeeper but we are calm. We are happy with Neto's work."

Antoine Griezmann says Didier Deschamps knows exactly where to play him after the Barcelona forward played a pivotal role in France's hard-fought win over Croatia. 

Griezmann scored a superb eighth-minute goal, his third international strike of 2020, as Les Bleus prevailed 2-1 in Zagreb. 

The former Atletico Madrid player was deployed in a central position as he worked alongside Anthony Martial and Kylian Mbappe, who netted a late winner after Nikola Vlasic's equaliser.  

While he impressed for France, Griezmann has yet to find form under new Barca boss Ronald Koeman. Playing predominantly on the right flank, the 29-year-old has failed to score or even create a chance in his three LaLiga appearances in 2020-21.

However, he put any club issues to the back of his mind to help his country come out on top in the Nations League clash on Wednesday.

"The coach knows where to put me," Griezmann said of Deschamps in an interview with TF1. "I take advantage of this situation, of this place, of the confidence of the coach and my team-mates. 

"It was a complicated match, not very beautiful to see, not very beautiful to play, on a difficult ground. We knew how to suffer, the most important is to win and show that we are strong."

France's victory keeps them level on points with Group A3 leaders Portugal, the two nations having drawn 0-0 on Sunday. 

"It was difficult for everyone. We knew we were going to have a battle," Deschamps told TF1. 

"We did the right thing in the second half. This team has always had character. Just because you won a title in 2018 doesn't mean you win with a snap of your fingers.  

"If we didn't manage to score against Portugal, it's also because the opposition was good. We had great opposition today even if we had an excellent start to the match."

France edged out Croatia 2-1 thanks to Kylian Mbappe's late effort in an end-to-end Nations League encounter.

Buoyed on by a limited, albeit raucous, home crowd in Zagreb, Croatia looked well placed to push on when Nikola Vlasic cancelled out Antoine Griezmann's stunning eighth-minute opener.

Mbappe failed to convert a gilt-edged chance soon after the world champions broke the deadlock, and Croatia could have made France pay earlier if not for an excellent stop from Hugo Lloris, who was then beaten by Vlasic after the break.

Despite a superb stop from Dominik Livakovic to deny Paul Pogba, France had their winner when Lucas Digne brilliantly teed up Mbappe with 11 minutes remaining.

Griezmann drew France level in Les Bleus 4-2 triumph over Croatia in September, and it did not take long for him to open the scoring this time out as he arrowed a brilliant finish in off the woodwork.

It should have been 2-0 seven minutes later, only for Mbappe to slice wide with the goal gaping, with Anthony Martial seeing a penalty appeal turned down following a tussle with Domagoj Vida.

Mario Pasalic looked set to restore parity when he pounced on a loose ball six yards out, only for Lloris to make an outstanding save with his feet.

Vlasic drilled wide from the edge of the area eight minutes into the second half, yet the playmaker showed no such profligacy soon after when he prodded a fantastic finish across Lloris and into the left-hand corner.

Substitute Pogba made an instant impact, though, and would have restored France's lead if not for Livakovic's reactions.

However, the Manchester United man was to prove decisive, with his raking pass finding Digne, who volleyed in a cross for Mbappe to keep France level pegging with Group A3 leaders Portugal.

 

What does it mean? France keep pace with Portugal

While Portugal, without Cristiano Ronaldo, easily cast aside Sweden in Group A3's other match, it was an altogether more difficult task for Didier Deschamps' side on Wednesday, but the victory, which came despite them having only 47.6 per cent of the possession, keeps them right on the heels of the group leaders. Croatia, meanwhile, remain third on three points.

Griezmann a thorn in Croatia's side 

Following his opener, Griezmann has now scored three goals against Croatia for France. He has only netted more against Germany.

Injury halts superb Digne display

The first-time cross from full-back Digne for Mbappe's winner was exquisite, but the 27-year-old was also excellent defensively, making a game-high seven tackles.

However, his match came to a concerning end late on when he suffered an apparent knee injury, which will be a huge worry for Everton ahead of the Merseyside derby on Saturday.

What's next?

France play Finland in a friendly on November 11, while Croatia are due to play Turkey a day earlier.

Didier Deschamps has said he cannot promise Antoine Griezmann a place in the France team - even though his statistics for Les Bleus look great on paper.

Griezmann has struggled to find his best form since joining Barcelona from Atletico Madrid in July 2019, both with club and country.

He was player of the tournament and top scorer at Euro 2016, and then a World Cup winner with France two years later, but at the age of 29 appears to have lost some of his spark.

Deschamps believes that can return, and on the eve of a Nations League clash with Croatia he said there is no doubting Griezmann's class, even if his most recent form has left much to be desired.

Griezmann was unimpressive in the goalless draw with Portugal on Sunday in Paris, albeit one of a host of star names who failed to live up to their billing, including Cristiano Ronaldo.

France head coach Deschamps said of Griezmann: "I know you're looking at the last game, but look at his stats: 81 caps, 32 goals, 21 assists. It speaks for itself."

He added, however: "It doesn't guarantee him anything, like some other players who could have done better against Portugal. I know his talent and what he can give to the team."

Former France midfielder Alain Giresse questioned the role Griezmann occupied against Portugal, which to his eyes was a more deep-lying position than normal.

Deschamps is aware there is plenty of talk surrounding the man who scored twice and had two assists in France's run to World Cup glory two years ago.

Griezmann's numbers were down at Barcelona last season, with his conversion rate of what Opta defines as 'big chances' a disappointing 38.46 per cent, having been 47.37 in his final year at Atletico and around 60 per cent in each of the previous two campaigns.

"Antoine's position, I can talk about it with him, we've done it for a while," Deschamps said.

"I know very well where he's the most effective, the most influential. It's in a central position obviously. He lacks rhythm, you know why. So, he needs a bit of time, he was much better in the second half compared to the first one [against Portugal]. He's an attacking player but, as he runs a lot, sometimes he's an offensive midfielder."

Deschamps expressed his admiration of Croatia playmaker Luka Modric, who was the driving force behind his country's run to the World Cup final against France in Moscow.

"Luka Modric is a great player and Croatia are much stronger with him, he's very influential n the team, he's a leader on and off the pitch," Deschamps said.

"He didn't get the Ballon d'Or by chance. If Croatia reached the World Cup final in Russia, it's a lot because of Luka Modric.

"On top of that, he's someone I really like, I have met him a few times, he's a good person, very humble and honest.

"We'll watch for him, like every time we're playing against a key player. His position is not very set, but every time he has the ball, he can improve Croatia's game."

Hugo Lloris has defended Antoine Griezmann from critics and insists the Barcelona forward remains a crucial player for France.

Griezmann has been scrutinised for his form for much of the past 15 months since he completed a €120million move from Atletico Madrid to Barca.

The 29-year-old has not looked fully at ease in the Catalans' forward line, his last goal in LaLiga – one of only nine he scored last season – coming in the 4-1 win at Villarreal on July 5.

Griezmann, who got a goal in the 7-1 friendly thrashing of Ukraine, also scored in the 4-2 Nations League win over Croatia but, ahead of Wednesday's rematch in Zagreb, he again finds himself facing accusations of poor form for the national team.

In the 0-0 draw with Portugal on Sunday, Griezmann, playing as a number 10 behind Olivier Giroud and Kylian Mbappe, managed just two shots and created one chance for team-mates.

However, he did attempt 55 passes in the opposition half – the most of any player on the pitch – and highlighted his importance without the ball, winning back possession a game-high 11 times.

It is that kind of quality that Lloris believes will always be important, even if Griezmann's goal output is presently reduced.

"You can't question a player like Antoine Griezmann because of all he has done and all he has brought to France in recent years," the Tottenham goalkeeper told reporters on Tuesday.

"All players have ups and downs. There are times when you succeed more than others. He is currently going through a slightly complicated period in attack, but above all, I see a player who is ready to defend and make the effort for his team-mates. There is no question about that.

"We have to keep our backs to the wall and help him, too. He has our full confidence. We know he has the ability to make the difference in truly important moments for France.

"Let's be patient but, in any case, France can only be strong if we are all united and not pointing the finger at any individual player."

Lloris is looking forward to Wednesday's game at Stadion Maksimir, at which a number of fans will be permitted.

"The presence of supporters is of course good news," he added. "There will inevitably be a bit of hostility but, for the French players, it's a good thing to be able to overcome adversity to win this match.

"That's our goal, in any case. We'll give everything to give the right performance to win."

Olivier Giroud celebrated his 100th cap with a double as France cruised to a 7-1 friendly win over Ukraine. 

The Chelsea striker, named as captain for the game at the Stade de France, was in fine form for the reigning world champions. 

Eduardo Camavinga broke the deadlock in the ninth minute with an exquisite opener, before Giroud lit up the game with a stunning long-range strike 15 minutes later.  He then made it 3-0 in the 34th minute, with Vitalii Mykolenko's own goal soon after putting the game beyond doubt. 

Viktor Tsygankov reduced the deficit eight minutes into the second half but Corentin Tolisso bent home and Kylian Mbappe added a sixth before Antoine Griezmann's fortuitous effort rounded off a rout that thoroughly reflected France's dominance.

Skipper Giroud was involved as Camavinga marked his first start in spectacular fashion.  

Georgi Bushchan did well to keep out Giroud's close-range header, but Camavinga was there to convert on the rebound with a deft overhead kick that looped beyond the forlorn Ukraine goalkeeper.  

Anthony Martial was denied at the near post after a neat run into the box and Camavinga fired over with a long-range volley before Giroud ensured his landmark appearance would be a memorable one.  

His perfectly placed left-footed effort left Bushchan with no chance, while there was to be further misery for the visitors.  

Tolisso saw a half-volley tipped over but Bushchan was soon picking the ball out of his net again, the keeper only able to turn Houssem Aouar's long-range effort as far as Giroud, who doubled his tally with a diving header.  

Ruslan Malinovskiy spurned a gilt-edged chance at the other end and that profligacy was punished as Martial was again thwarted by Bushchan, only for Mykolenko to head into his own net from the resulting corner. 

Malinovskiy tested Steve Mandanda twice before the interval and Ukraine did get some reward for their efforts in the 53rd minute through Tsygankov's vicious drive. 

Normal service quickly resumed, however, as Tolisso sent a sublime finish into the bottom-right corner after cleverly linking up with Mbappe, who eight minutes from time weaved his way into the box and rifled home. 

There was still time for Griezmann to have the last word, his powerful strike taking a heavy deflection to leave poor Bushchan rooted to the spot. 

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