Diego Simeone believes Antoine Griezmann chose a good moment to leave Atletico Madrid as staying longer could have potentially spoiled their relationship.
Griezmann developed into one of the world’s best forwards under Simeone’s guidance at Atletico. In total, he scored an impressive 133 goals in 257 appearances and inspired the club to Europa League glory in 2017/18.
But the France international decided to call time on his five-year stay at the Wanda Metropolitano for a €120m transfer to Barcelona this summer. Unsurprisingly, the move to a rival club hasn’t gone down well with Atletico supporters.
They had, in fact, booed Griezmann when he first announced plans to leave in May. Unlike Diego Godin, Filipe Luis, Juanfran and Fernando Torres, he didn’t even get a send-off.
And now the 28-year-old’s departure has received another bitter twist as Los Colchoneros plan to take Barcelona to court over the transfer fee.
However, Simeone insists he’s got no hard feelings towards Griezmann and suggested he may have picked a good time to leave.
When asked why the World Cup winner didn’t get a send-off, like some of his old team-mates, the Atletico boss told La Nacion: “Because it wasn’t the same time [at the club].
“His time was significant from a sporting perspective. The others, in another way, have lit up the hearts of Atletico fans.
“The numbers of Antoine are tremendous. In five years, he was among the five top scorers in the history of the club.
“When he came to talk to me about his departure, I already sensed it. I think he looked for the most appropriate moment in his search to keep improving.
“He is young, he has talent, he is an extraordinary boy whom I love very much, and the best way to maintain this affection is from respect.
“I understand that others also have needs. As long as others have needs that do not alter mine, it is great. If the needs of he who remains alter my needs, we may not end up as friends anymore.”
Simeone and Atletico wrapped up their USA pre-season tour on Sunday by beating franchise club Atletico San Luis 2-1.
They will next head over to Sweden to take on Juventus for their International Champions Cup finale next Saturday.