Friday, January 6, 2017

Godin: Griezmann's had an amazing, spectacular year

“I remember telling him: ‘I can’t say if we’ll win
anything, but I do know we’re going to have a
good time’.” Diego Godin laughed as he recalled
the first time he spoke to Antoine Griezmann, a
player who has since become one of his closest
friends in the game.
That conversation came in the summer of 2014,
when the Frenchman was rumoured to be on the
point of joining Atletico Madrid. One of the leaders
of the Colchonero dressing room, Godin made a
point of being the first to welcome him. “We had
mutual friends and I knew he was coming so I
decided to give him a call,” the Uruguayan told
FIFA.com . “I’d been told he was a fun person to
be with and that he needed to feel welcome and
wanted by people to perform well on the pitch.”
Godin took that last part very seriously indeed.
No sooner did the striker make the move to Atleti
than the Uruguayan centre-half became his guide
and mentor. Griezmann’s passion for yerba mate
infusions, which he had developed during his time
at Real Sociedad, and other typically charrúa
traditions did the rest. “I’ve always said that
Antoine loves mate more than many Uruguayans,"
Godin said, smiling. "He’s one of us. He’s just
starting out with the barbecues. He’s done a
couple already and he’s gradually picking up the
techniques and the tricks of the trade. He’s got a
flair for it and he likes it, and it won’t be long
before he’s just as good as anyone who knows
how to prepare mate .”
The central defender is clearly proud of the skills
his friend has nurtured both on and off the pitch.
Having faced Griezmann on several occasions
during the Frenchman’s days at Real and having
since grappled with him on the training ground,
Godin is better placed than anyone to discuss his
development at Atleti . “He showed the odd flash
of brilliance at Real Sociedad and he caught the
eye then. He’s kept that up at Atletico Madrid and
he’s been a matchwinner for the team in most of
the games he’s played. He’s been in among the
goals a lot more too, which is what makes
strikers what they are.”
Simeone's career-changing instruction
As Godin went on to explain, Atletico coach Diego
Simeone is the main reason behind Griezmann’s
breakthrough. “As soon as he arrived at the club,
the boss asked him to play a decisive role for the
team. He told him to play closer to goal. He said
that was where he had to be.”
Asked to describe what it is that has allowed the
Frenchman to become one of the best players in
the world, Godin was equally unequivocal. “He’s
become very competitive, at least in the time that
I’ve known him. That’s allowed him to maintain
the consistency that’s helped him come on so
fast in such a short space of time.” So fast, in
fact, that Griezmann will be going up for The Best
FIFA Men’s Player 2016 award on Monday 9
January against Cristiano Ronaldo and Leo Messi,
the two players who have dominated world
football over the last few years.
Following a year in which Griezmann had a big
hand to play in his side reaching their second
UEFA Champions League final in three years and
in France advancing to the final of UEFA EURO
2016, Godin believes his friend has done more
than enough to win the accolade. “I’d give it to
him, first of all because he’s my friend. There are
some feelings mixed in there too. He’s a
wonderful person with a very big heart. Then
there’s the fact that he’s my team-mate. We’ve
been in a thousand battles together and he’s
helped me win a lot of games. And he deserves it
too. I think Antoine’s had an amazing,
spectacular year.”
So can Griezmann end the duopoly of Cristiano
and Messi? The answer to that question lies with
the football writers, the fans and the coaches and
captains of the world’s national teams.

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