Done Deal!. . . .Griezmann signs for Barcelona

The Chronicle

Barcelona — Antoine Griezmann signed for Barcelona on Thursday after the Spanish champions paid La Liga rivals Atletico Madrid the €120 million release clause required to sign the World Cup winner.

“The player will sign a contract with his new club for the next five seasons, through to June 30, 2024, with a buyout clause of €800 million,” Barca said in a statement.

Friday’s announcement brings to an end a dispute between the two clubs and Griezmann, who had long aimed to move to the Catalan giants.

The 28-year-old failed to show up for his side’s pre-season gathering on Sunday after he had announced in May he would be leaving the Wanda Metropolitano, even though he could not reveal his destination until his release clause dropped from €200 million to €120 million at the start of the month.

Last week Atletico accused Barcelona and Griezmann of a “lack of respect” after the Barca president Josep Maria Bartomeu revealed the two clubs had held talks about the former Real Sociedad forward.

Atletico also claimed that Griezmann had told the club that he had struck a deal with Barcelona in March, just days before the second leg of their Champions

League last-16 tie with Juventus, which saw them dumped out by a Cristiano Ronaldo hat-trick after winning the first leg 2-0 in Madrid.

Griezmann joined Atletico in 2014 and has scored 133 goals in 257 appearances, lifting the Europa League in 2018.

He finished top scorer at Euro 2016 when France were beaten in the final on home soil by Portugal before helping to guide his team to World Cup triumph in Russia last year.

Meanwhile, Japanese attacking midfielder Hiroki Abe said Friday he was moving to Barcelona, becoming the second Japanese player in a month to join one of La Liga’s big two clubs.

J-League outfit Kashima Antlers, where 20-year-old Abe was spending his third season as a professional, confirmed the move.

Abe is expected to play for Barcelona’s B team to start with, Japanese broadcaster NHK said.

The news came as Barcelona prepare to tour Japan later this month for friendly matches, including one against Premier League side Chelsea.

“I felt strongly that I wanted a new challenge at FC Barcelona, although the decision was difficult to make because it required me to leave the team (Antlers) during this ongoing season,” Abe said in a statement.

Abe, voted the J-League’s Best Young Player last season, was called into Japan’s national team for the first time in June for the Copa America where he played in two games, including one as a second-half substitute.

Abe will complete the move after a medical check in Spain, Antlers added.

Abe’s transfer comes after Japanese teenage sensation Takefusa Kubo, dubbed the “Japanese Messi”, joined Real Madrid last month.

New Barcelona midfielder Frenkie de Jong admits he always dreamt of playing for Arsenal after signing for the La Liga side.

De Jong agreed to sign for the Spanish champions back in January, for a fee of around £75 million from Eredivisie side, Ajax.

He was one of the most impressive young midfielders in Europe last season and is now also a mainstay of the senior Dutch team, despite only being 22.

He was officially unveiled as a Barca player last week as the club look for long-term replacements in their midfield for the likes of Sergio Busquets.

However, the Dutchman admits he always imagined himself playing for Arsenal, and has cited the influence of Marc Overmars in wanting to represent the Gunners.

“In my mind I have had the following list for a long time: Ajax-Arsenal-Barcelona, call it the Marc Overmars route,” De Jong told Voetbal International.

“But then again, if you can go directly to Barcelona, then you are right where you want to be.

“Faster than you ever dared to dream.” — AFP.