Antoine Griezmann - Player Profile

French Star Destined To Shine For Les Bleus

Personal information
Full name: Antoine Griezmann
Date of birth: 21 March 1991 
Age: 24
Place of birth: Macon, France
Height: 1.76 m (5 ft 9 in)
Playing position: Forward

Club information
Current team: Atletico Madrid 
Number: 7

Youth career 
1997–1999: EC Macon
1999–2005: UF Maconnais
2005–2009: Real Sociedad

Senior career
2009–2014: Real Sociedad 201 Appearances, 52 goals
2014– Atletico Madrid 35 Appearances, 17 goals

National team 
2010: France U19 7 Appearances, 3 goals
2011: France U20 8 Appearances, 1 goal
2010–2012: France U21 10 Appearances, 3 goals
2014– France 14 Appearances, 5 goals

France makes national football teams like it makes wine: generally older, kind of snooty about it, sometimes great, but often overhyped. However, with Franck Ribery now retired from international football, the country needs another hero, someone who can step up to the plate. France is breaking in a group of young, exciting players, and perhaps shifting its identity. Nobody exemplifies that more than Antoine Griezmann. Blessed with superb close control and can strike the ball cleanly from distance, an eye for a killer pass, Griezmann certainly has what it takes to give France the edge they have been lacking in recent years.

Born in Macon in central France, he joined Real Sociedad in Spain at the age of 13, and after breaking into the first team helped them win promotion back to the top flight. He was a key performer in successive French youth sides and helped the Gallic nation win the European under-19 Championship in 2010 and secure a fourth-place finish at the under-20 World Cup in Colombia a year later. "He's a type of player we did not have, a little bit Spanish because of his technique and accuracy in front of goal," Francis Smerecki, his former Under-19 coach, said in 2010. Griezmann played in France's three group games at the World Cup in Brazil last year without really shining.
On a club level, Griezmann is a breakout star. On a national team level, he is virtually new to the team. Part of the reason for that is, as he was emerging at former club Real Sociedad, Griezmann's international career was set back by a suspension for disciplinary reasons handed down by the France football federation (FFF) when he was playing for the under-21 side, reportedly after an unauthorised late-night excursion. The ban ended early last year, after France had already narrowly qualified for the World Cup, leaving the 23-year-old free to make his debut for the senior national team in a 2-0 friendly win against the Netherlands on 5 March 2014. Deschamps wasted little time in calling him into the side and he was a somewhat surprise inclusion in the squad for the 2014 World Cup ahead of Samir Nasri.

Over the past three seasons, Griezmann has developed an elite skill: the ability to score while playing as a wide player. Call him an attacking midfielder, or a winger or a wide forward, or whatever you want — the point remains the same. He starts out wide and moves into scoring position. If there’s one place on the football field where France is in need of a new star, it’s on the left side of the midfield. That’s Ribery’s old office, and he just happens to be one of the best half dozen players in the world, so he definitely has some big boots to fill. It’s easy to envision a role for Griezmann as a starter for France and an important one to say the least. He’s young and doesn’t have much international experience partly because of his ban. It’s the kind of risk that previous French national teams have been loath to take. But the electrifying attacker is one worth taking; Griezmann is the kind of talent who can inject vitality into a skilled French side.

Griezmann seems like a natural fit for the national team; given his ability to get goals while also playing alongside an out-and-out striker (like Karim Benzema). It’s certainly possible. As his game has developed this year, his positioning at Atletico Madrid has evolved along with it. His touches are increasingly coming from areas beyond the left wing. While during his time at Real Sociedad, Griezmann looked like a typical left-winger who likes to cut inside. Deschamps on Griezmann: “He is very clinical, scores a lot of goals and creates a lot of goals. He is equally comfortable on either side and through the middle. On top of that, he is tactically very aware.” Some of that is probably the empty praise heaped on any young player starting out his career for the national side, but some of it sure seems like a manager looking for a way to make Griezmann a focal point of the French attack. It makes sense, especially since France has struggled to get production from both the second striker position and the wings, immediately making himself France’s best option.