Wednesday brought a ruling that FC Barcelona fans had been dreading — the club was found to have illegally negotiated with Antoine Griezmann before paying his release clause to Atlético Madrid. Finally, justice for Atléti. The punishment? €300.
That’s not a typo. Seriously, €300. The Royal Spanish Football Federation seems well aware how ridiculous this sounds, admitting that it’s not any kind of punishment at all.
“This committee is aware that the payment of €300, beyond its purely symbolic gesture, will not contribute to the club being punished in this case and probably other clubs that may be in this situation in the future, to fit their conduct within the required rules.”
Hilariously, Barcelona will appeal the ruling, because it feels that paying the fine would amount to an admission of wrongdoing.
RFEF’s argument for imposing such a small punishment against Barca is essentially that Atléti admitted Griezmann would be leaving the club well ahead of the transfer window. On May 14, the club posted this video, confirming Griezmann would not be an Atléti player the following season.
.@AntoGriezmann: "Han sido cinco años increíbles; muchas gracias por todo, os llevo en el corazón". pic.twitter.com/9XorY05u1T— Atlético de Madrid (@Atleti) May 14, 2019
“It is important to highlight that the contacts between FC Barcelona occurred once the player had manifested his intention to leave Atlético Madrid,” RFEF said in their statement. Basically: Yeah, Barca contacted Griezmann before depositing his buyout clause, but only after Atlético Madrid itself announced his imminent departure.
Atléti also played itself with Griezmann’s release clause. Griezmann’s contract had a €200 million release clause last season, but it dropped to €120m on July 1, which is when Barcelona paid it. Atléti argued that, because Barcelona started talking to Griezmann before July 1, the Catalan club should have to pay the €80 million difference. The judge who ruled on the case disagreed.
Barcelona broke the rules, and it’s very difficult to believe they had never contacted Griezmann’s representatives before May 14. But Atléti can’t prove that, and it gave Barcelona an excuse when it made an unprompted, unorthodox announcement that a player it hadn’t agreed to sell was going to leave the club. It also let Barca get him cheap by writing the release clause in his contract the way it did.
Atléti played itself. Hopefully club leadership has learned how to not play itself in the future.