Barca reaches agreement with Atletico's Griezmann – reports

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The French international, who has been Atletico's top scorer for the past three seasons, has been heavily linked with a move to Manchester United in the past.
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Reuters

 Alaves’ Tomas Pina fouls Atletico Madrid’s Antoine Griezmann during their Spanish league match at the Wanda Metropolitano in Madrid on December 16, 2017. Atletico won 1-0 to go second behind Barcelona.

Barcelona President Josep Maria Bartomeu has met with the family of Atletico Madrid's star forward Antoine Griezmann ahead of a possible summer move, sports daily Mundo Deportivo reported on Sunday.

The French international, who has been Atletico's top scorer for the past three seasons, has been heavily linked with a move to Manchester United in the past.

However, Barca appears willing to meet his 100-million euro (US$118 million) buyout clause as it seeks to again unite Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez with a prolific attacker following the departure of Neymar to Paris Saint-Germain in August for a world-record 222 million euros.

"Barca settled on Griezmann as an objective for 2018 and they spoke with his entourage to see if he was willing to wear the blue and red shirt," reported Barcelona-based Mundo Deportivo.

"After receiving a 'yes' in response, an agreement was reached with the French goalscorer involving Pep Segura, Barca's general manager, and Robert Fernandez, the director of football.

"President Josep Maria Bartomeu has now entered to finalize the operation." the newspaper reported adding that "Bartomeu met recently with Griezmann's family to eat in Barcelona".

Griezmann, 26, agreed to sign a new contract with Atletico in June after the club had an appeal against a transfer ban rejected.

The top scorer at Euro 2016, Griezmann said it would have been "dirty" to walk out on the club when it couldn't replace him until January.

However, Atletico coach Diego Simeone accepted this week that Griezmann's departure is inevitable. Many of Atletico's other outstanding players, including strikers Fernando Torres, Sergio Aguero, Radamel Falcao and Diego Costa, have also left in recent years for pastures new.

"Of course Griezmann will be able to leave at some point, as Diego Costa, Diego Ribas and Arda Turan have gone," Simeone told French sports daily L'Equipe.

"If a player comes to me and says, 'coach, I have a chance of a lifetime and want to leave', and if he's left everything on the pitch for me like Griezmann, I'll say, 'no problem'."

Atletico is also likely to come under financial pressure to sell after moving into a new 310-million euro stadium in September and falling to make it into the last 16 of the UEFA Champions League for the first time in five years.

The club has also already committed to nearly 100 million euros in transfers for January with Costa returning from Chelsea and Spanish international Vitolo joining from Sevilla.

Reuters

Atletico Madrid's Fernando Torres scores the only goal against Alaves during their Spanish league match in Madrid on December 16, 2017.

On Saturday, Torres came off the bench to fire Atletico to a 1-0 win at home to Alaves which took  Simeone's side up to second in La Liga above Valencia, which stumbled to a 1-2 defeat at Eibar.

Crowd favorite Torres was brought on in the second half to give Atletico an extra attacking edge and the Spanish veteran had been on the pitch only a few moments when he slid in a low cross from Sime Vrsaljko to score in the 74th minute.

It was the 33-year-old's first league goal of the season and it gave Atletico a fourth straight league win, taking it three points behind Liga leader Barca.

Simeone's side, which along with Barca is the only unbeaten team in the league, was boosted by the return of Griezmann but until Torres came on it had struggled to create openings against relegation-threatened Alaves.

The Basque side remains 18th in the standings but has been revitalized by the arrival of coach Abelardo Fernandez, who had guided the team to two wins from his two games in charge before its trip to the Spanish capital.

Valencia saw its unlikely title tilt dented by a much-improved Eibar side, which twice took the lead after the break and held on to win its fourth game in five and inflict a second consecutive away defeat on Marcelino's side.

Atletico is second in the standings on 36 points, behind Barca, which was hosting Deportivo La Coruna on Sunday, while Valencia is third on 34. Real Madrid, fourth on 31, missed the weekend's domestic action due to playing in the Club World Cup final, where it beat Gremio 1-0 in Abu Dhabi.

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