Atletico Madrid striker Fernando Torres says he hopes Antoine Griezmann does not leave the club, while president Enrique Cerezo has called for respect from Barcelona after they allegedly tapped up the France international.
Atletico made an official complaint to FIFA this week over Barca president Josep Maria Bartomeu allegedly holding a direct meeting with Griezmann, which could lead to sanctions being imposed on the Catalan club and on the player himself.
Griezmann revealed in his recent biography that he turned down Barca in 2011 and could yet join Manchester United in future, with Atletico coach Diego Simeone admitting last week he would not stand in anyone’s way if they want to leave.
Speaking on Radio Marca, Torres said it was public knowledge that such conversations between players and other clubs took place, however, he would “love” it if Griezmann ended up staying at Atletico for the long-term.
“It is not a secret that this always happens.” Torres said. “Although I am not saying it did in this case. Griezmann is with us [at the moment] and we must enjoy him. Atletico can have and keep the best players. I would love if Griezmann wanted to stay at Atletico.”
Pressed on Griezmann’s intentions, Torres recalled that he stayed last summer when he could have left for United.
“You would have to ask him,” he said. “But when he decided to stay it will be because he wanted to.”
Atletico president Cerezo was on the AS cover on Thursday morning alongside the headline: “We ask for respect,” having told reporters at the Royal Spanish Football Federation’s annual Christmas dinner that he would always defend his club’s best interests.
“The message from Atletico’s board is that we will always defend the interests of the club, here or anywhere else,” he said. “As far as I know [Barca] did not ask us permission for anything. But I will tell you one thing, I will talk when I have to talk.”
Cerezo rejected an assertion that it was now a matter of time before Griezmann left Atletico.
“No, no, no,” he replied. “Nobody is lost to us. Antoine is an Atletico Madrid player and that is that.”
Speaking to Marca, former Atletico and Barca striker Julio Salinas said nobody was surprised Griezmann was considering his next move, and Atleti could not take the moral high ground given they triggered former Sevilla winger Vitolo’s release clause in the summer.
“It was known last year when Griezmann renewed his contract with Atletico with a €200 million release clause,” Salinas said. “That is why they put this number, so that Atletico, who could not sign [a replacement last summer], could keep him.
“It was known he was going to leave next June [when the clause falls to €100m], the only thing to be decided was the club he would join. What did Atletico do with Vitolo? Barca hold all the cards, so nobody can be surprised if Griezmann comes to Barca. It is the most normal thing in the world.”
Dermot Corrigan is a Madrid-based football writer who covers La Liga and the Spain national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @dermotmcorrigan