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- Antoine Griezmann told Atletico Madrid fans this week that he would leave the club.
- The forward has been linked to a $140 million move to FC Barcelona, where he would join the Ajax midfielder Frenkie de Jong, whose $96 million move should be finalized in July.
- Barcelona is also said to be close to completing a deal that will see de Jong’s teammate Matthijs de Ligt join him at Camp Nou.
- The hat trick of signings would cost Barça $326 million, but there is a very good reason the club is so keen to splash the cash this summer.
- It has been humiliated in the UEFA Champions League for two successive seasons and is looking to banish those memories for good by making a statement of intent in the upcoming transfer market.
- If these players take Barcelona from kings of Spain to kings of Europe, it’ll be money well spent.
- Read more of Business Insider’s coverage of the 2018-19 soccer season here.
- Visit Business Insider’s home page for more stories.
Antoine Griezmann is just one part of FC Barcelona’s $326 million transfer plan as it attempts to banish its Champions League humiliation for good.
Barcelona won its 26th La Liga championship title last month and can add a cup trophy to its league wins should the team beat Valencia in the Copa del Rey final on May 25.
Barça, led by Lionel Messi, has been in exquisite form this season. Though Messi fractured his arm in October and was left battered, bruised, and bleeding after an overzealous challenge from a Manchester United player in April, his combined statistics in La Liga and Champions League competition has been extraordinary.
The 30-year-old has overcome 82 outright fouls to tally 48 goals and 16 assists in 37 starts – one goal scored or created for every 54 minutes he has played. Nobody in Europe’s big leagues can match this. He has been in a league of his own all season and is by far the best player on the planet right now, according to data from WhoScored.com.
But it isn’t just his productivity in front of goal that has generated headlines, but the style and technique he has shown while doing so. He has toyed with defenders in Spain and produced moments of pure artistry on the pitch, and he’s so good that some of the biggest stars in soccer are now saying he can no longer be compared to Cristiano Ronaldo.
But Messi’s magnificence and a potential league and cup double for Barcelona are not good enough. The club has been humiliated in back-to-back seasons of the Champions League, a competition it is desperate to win after watching its closest and most bitter rival, Real Madrid, win three in a row from 2016 to 2018.
The Champions League is soccer’s biggest club-level tournament. And in the semifinal on May 7, one year after AS Roma embarrassed Barcelona in the 2018 quarterfinal, Liverpool FC mounted a stunning four-goal comeback to dump Messi and Barça out of European competition.
To ensure that it does not happen again and that Barcelona is poised to win the Champions League next season, the club is in the middle of what could be a $326 million spending spree.
It all began when Barcelona completed the $96 million purchase of the Ajax midfielder Frenkie de Jong in January, a move that should be finalized in July.
De Jong, 22, has been instrumental in the market-disrupting Ajax team this season because of his defensive acumen, pinpoint passing, and vision in the heart of midfield.
But de Jong is not the only Ajax player Barcelona plans to raid – it also wants to sign Matthijs de Ligt, the 19-year-old leader.
De Ligt’s formidable displays in the middle of defense belie his teenage years, and he is already revered for his strength in the air, his soccer intelligence, and his considerable potential.
The soccer website Goal.com reported on Monday that Barcelona was just days away from adding de Ligt, who, along with de Jong, would revolutionize the club’s defensive abilities.
The club will be hoping that a de Jong and de Ligt double signing will be enough to spare it from suffering further devastating losses in the final moments of high-pressure matches.
Forbes said a de Ligt deal would cost Barça $90 million but speculated that it would prove to be a bargain.
That would represent $186 million worth of business and would be a considerable statement of intent in the summer market.
Griezmann could join de Ligt and de Jong at Barça
Barcelona’s business may not end there, as it wants a player to join Messi in attack and help shoulder the goal-scoring burden.
Griezmann, 28, shunned a move to Barcelona when he committed to a new five-year deal at Atletico last summer, but this week he told fans he had “made the decision to leave,” adding, “Thank you so much, and goodbye.”
— Atlético de Madrid (@atletienglish) May 14, 2019
Barcelona is expected to pounce with a $140 million bid. That could also prove to be a bargain, as it is far below the player’s $165 million market valuation, according to the CIES Football Observatory, a prominent sports think tank in Switzerland.
In total, that would be $326 million of expenditure in one transfer window.
It may seem like a lot of money, but considering the ages and potential of the players and the possibility that they would take Barcelona from the kings of Spain to the kings of Europe, it may well be money well spent.