Griezmann-Saul swap breaks down, giving Barca fresh Messi headache

Robin Bairner
Antoine Griezmann and Saul Niguez are set to be swapped by Barcelona and Atletico Madrid

Antoine Griezmann will not leave Barcelona for Atletico Madrid this summer, putting Lionel Messi's new contract in doubt once again.

Griezmann’s departure to Atleti, the club he signed from in 2019 for €120 million, was set to play a key role in clearing Barca’s wage bill to allow them the freedom to re-sign Messi, who is presently a free agent, having seen his previous contract expire on 30 June.

However, ARA reports that the switch has broken down because Barcelona’s leadership feels that they would be short changed in a deal that would see midfielder Saul move in the opposite direction.

Griezmann might have been a star performer at Atleti, but he has struggled to replicate such form at Barcelona, finding his favoured role in a central position often filled by Messi. A return of 35 goals in 99 outings is regarded as a disappointment given so much was expected of him when he arrived.

Barcelona's Messi problem remains

Lionel Messi, Barcelona, 2020/21

Barcelona’s failure to offload the France international star is another blow to the club’s aspirations of re-signing Messi, which have been hampered by a salary cap that La Liga are proving to be inflexible on.

Indeed, Barcelona have now hit several brick walls as they attempt to manufacture the possibility of tying the Argentine down to a fresh contract. Before the Griezmann move to Atletico was suggested publicly, Barca also offered the opportunity for Samuel Umtiti and Miralem Pjanic to tear up their contracts, although both players rejected this possibility, mindful they will not be as lucratively paid elsewhere.

Although Messi has agreed terms to a new five-year contract at Camp Nou, if he is to be registered to play in La Liga, Barcelona will have to find a fresh solution to the problem of cutting their wage bill.

With the footballing world have been crippled by the financial implications of the Covid-19 pandemic, the transfer market has been dramatically deflated, making it difficult to sell players – especially the type of big-earners on the books of Barcelona.

Swap deals, as Barcelona have discovered in this instance, are notoriously complicated to negotiate due to the fact that four parties, including two teams and two players, all have to agree to terms.

Messi’s future, for the time being, remains in doubt.