If we had all just listened to Diego Godin, this whole charade would have been over before it began.
As Antoine Griezmann’s every touch was booed on the last day of the season following media reports concerning a move to Barcelona, his Atletico Madrid teammate went over to the fans and told them to stop, and that the forward was staying.
Instead, it went largely unnoticed and the whole saga played out. Almost two years of “Will he? Won’t he?” was excruciatingly resolved in one rather self-indulgent 45-minute (that none of us will ever get back) documentary-verging-on-a-reality show titled “The Decision” in which Griezmann announced he was staying at the club.
First things first: Football fans have short memories. Griezmann will forever be remembered as the man who decided to stay when he could have gone, and there is nothing the Metropolitano faithful will enjoy more.
But — and it is a big but — what of that television show? We were told at a news conference the other day by the man himself that “now is not the time to talk about my future.” So why was Thursday any different?
Perhaps he remembered he had signed a (presumedly) lucrative deal with a production company that had been filming him for months.
Who knows what he was thinking? Whoever told him it was a good idea misjudged just how the widely mocked programme would be received. To the wider football public, he came off as someone putting his club and their fans through the mill in order, it seems, to do a Kim Kardashian and break the internet.
Now, on the one hand, it is immensely satisfying to see Barcelona, who behaved abysmally to secure the signing of Philippe Coutinho from Liverpool, and did likewise in trying to secure Griezmann’s signature, have the tables turned on them. They have been strung along and led a merry dance.
It is no more than they deserved given their public pursuit of the Frenchman, which included Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and club president Josep Maria Bartomeu all talking about him joining. It ultimately led Atleti to report the Catalans to FIFA and release a strong statement detailing and condemning their actions. All clubs tap-up players on the sly, but this was downright rude.
But on the other hand, Atletico deserve better. They signed a fleet-footed but slight winger who struggled to make it past the hour mark in games, and turned him into a genuine world superstar (perhaps too much of one, given the carry-on). Despite all the joy over him staying, the way it played out makes what could well be the coup of the summer feel like a hollow victory.
What should be a momentous moment for Atletico’s board, for the club as a whole having also signed Thomas Lemar and got Jose Maria Gimenez to sign a new deal, has descended into a Griezmann sideshow.
You can understand the idea behind the programme. It was meant to demonstrate the emotional tug-of-war a footballer goes through when he has this kind of decision to make. We often forget these are human beings, and Griezmann (or his people) probably wanted to showcase that.
Unfortunately, this was anything but. A candid interview on television — even with the club’s own channel — explaining it all would have sufficed.
Could you imagine the furore if Cristiano Ronaldo had done such a thing? What if Messi had allowed a camera crew to follow him around while secretly negotiating with one of his team’s biggest rivals? Now consider a player who, while genuinely excellent, for some still has a lot to prove, thinking he’s LeBron James and going about it in this way. The fact he was largely mocked goes to show he is not a big-enough name to warrant this.
Unfortunately, this might mark a new dawn for modern football and the way transfers (or potential transfers) are dealt with. Hopefully not.
While “The Decision” that Griezmann made was the correct one, showing admirable loyalty to a club that has given him everything, the way he went about it was all wrong. And it is something he, and all of us, will have to live with forever.
Joseph Walker covers Atletico Madrid for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter: @Joe_in_espana.