The Dutch head coach grumbles and rolls his eyes when he gets asked about the Argentine star’s commitment to the club on a weekly basis, but he may appreciate that beneath the glitz and glamour of transfer rumours are a Barcelona team that are slowly but surely putting together a decent run of form.
Indeed, the Catalan club haven’t lost a league match since December 5 - which means their unbeaten run in the Spanish top-flight now stretches to nine games. And Koeman’s side recently beat Granada 5-3 to reach the semi-finals of a Copa del Rey that will surely now appoint Barca as favourites to win it without the likes of Real Madrid or Atletico getting in the way.
At the heart of that return to form for the Catalan club has been Antoine Griezmann. Signed in 2019 for a remarkable fee of £108 million, struggled to live up to the price tag in his first season with just 15 goals and four assists in 48 games. And at the start of this season there were serious concerns that the French international simply wasn’t up to the task of being a star at Barcelona.
In his first 18 games of the season, Griezmann managed just five goals and two assists. The critics were in full song and Koeman decided to drop him against Real Valladolid. The team won comfortably, Griezmann sat on the bench and it seemed as though the forward would prove to be nothing more than a flop. But since then something has changed.
In his last nine games for Barcelona the French striker has quickly begun to look like his old self, with seven goals and six assists offering the kind of form that quickly reminds fans and critics alike why the club once felt the need to spend so much on him in the first place.
Indeed, the 29-year-old’s form and Barcelona’s own turn around in performances are undoubtedly linked. Whether it was Griezmann’s assist to kill off the 3-2 win over Athletic Bilbao, his two goals and one assist in the 4-0 victory over Granada, his assist for the late equaliser against Rayo Vallecano, his late winner in a 2-1 win over Athletic or his brace of goals and assists in the 5-3 Copa del Rey victory on Wednesday night, it seems as though the French striker is almost single-handedly pushing his side up a gear.
As such, it’ll come as no surprise to read that the player is now averaging 0.66 non-goals or assists per 90 minutes in the Spanish top-flight this season. That’s not only the second best in Koeman’s squad but it’s also just off the 0.69 Lionel Messi is averaging this season.
This Barcelona team may still revolve around Messi for the time being, but Griezmann is undoubtedly proving to be just as vital to the club’s current run of form.