Cover Story

Roll with the punches

Here’s an exclusive snippet from our interview with the Barcelona and France star. First things first: let’s find out who’s responsible for that shiner…

WORDS Graham Hunter | PHOTOGRAPHY Álex Caparrós

When we meet, Antoine Griezmann has a lovely big black eye. Geographically it’s just above his left cheekbone – beginning to fade from deep dark purple to what will become a sickly yellow, then eventually disappear underneath his natural, light, Mediterranean tan. For an interviewer, it’s a tempting opportunity. But there’s a minor risk: it’s crucial not to be misunderstood.

We’re on camera and I ask him – straight-faced but with a sufficiently jocular tone for him to catch on – whether he’s willing to swear to my parents that it wasn’t me, a hot-blooded Scot, who inflicted the bruise. He pounces on the chance with the same alacrity that’s brought him nearly 200 club goals in a brilliant career, taking him from the town of Mâcon, near Lyon, to the Basque Country, Spain’s capital and now Catalonia. He turns to the camera, flashes a charming French grin and gives a little “Hola!” wave. He’s enjoying this. Then he adds: “It wasn’t him – it was Giroud.”

Griezmann on learning a new philosophy at Barcelona.

Which is the truth. Immediately before our interview he’s enjoyed respite from this ongoing, testing apprenticeship at Barcelona by playing in his favoured position for France, in Albania, where he scored and assisted in the world champions’ 2-0 win. Nevertheless, he also took up his place in a wall to defend a free-kick and, when Giroud jumped to block the ball’s trajectory, the Chelsea striker levered himself higher thanks to outstretched elbows, accidentally catching Griezmann right under that left eye. C’est la vie, c’est la guerre.

But rather than a broken cheekbone, it’s been a handy ice-breaker. We’re both smiling; he knows this won’t be run of the mill. Interviewing men and women like Antoine Griezmann can be a testing business. Immense fun if it goes well, as this one does, but littered with traps. Are they in a good place? Not just that day, but in the given stage of their career. Are they tired, bored, in a bad mood, irritated by unfair media coverage, frustrated by lack of form? Will their energy levels allow them to properly engage with and enjoy the process of talking about subjects that will both entertain and inform their legions of fans?

I came here to learn a new style of play, a new philosophy
By

We underestimate what we ask of these hero figures: non-stop sporting excellence, superb intensity and competitive focus, but also generosity, openness to a journalist who may or may not carry a positive agenda, and a willingness to spare ultra-precious time in a schedule that will, usually, be creaking badly at the seams. With the man from Mâcon, I needn’t have worried.

Metaphorically speaking, there was a chance that his morale or his ego, rather than his eye, might be bruised. Objectively, his time at Barcelona has already been pretty successful. A handful of goals, some crisp assists, a work ethic that any manager would kill for and the absolutely evident promise that there’s so much more to come.

But if you flirt with joining a big club, decide against it, change your mind again, then join a year later for a nine-figure fee, particularly after a brutal European defeat at Anfield has left fans desperate for saviours, then the criteria for what’s judged sufficient might change from ‘fair’ to ‘harsh’. Some have, indeed, been harsh about his debut months.

Griezmann on Messi

Griezmann has already hinted that the process of conversion from Atleti athlete to Camp Nou commander has been at least as intense, complicated and challenging as he expected. Regularly featuring on the left wing, alongside Leo Messi and Luis Suárez, situates him far from where his most fertile performances for either Diego Simeone’s Atleti or Didier Deschamps’ France have tended to be. He could be forgiven if a detailed journalistic examination of life at Barcelona was something he’d rather do, say, next April or May, with trophies either in sight or already won.

Instead, tired from travel, black-eyed and listening to Scottish-tinted Spanish, here he is. Deep into what proves to be an enjoyable chat, I ask about a painful memory. It opens up a rich seam of information via which people who strive to understand what he’s doing with this golden stage of his career should judge him.

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Cover Story

Roll with the punches

Here’s an exclusive snippet from our interview with the Barcelona and France star. First things first: let’s find out who’s responsible for that shiner…

WORDS Graham Hunter | PHOTOGRAPHY Álex Caparrós

When we meet, Antoine Griezmann has a lovely big black eye. Geographically it’s just above his left cheekbone – beginning to fade from deep dark purple to what will become a sickly yellow, then eventually disappear underneath his natural, light, Mediterranean tan. For an interviewer, it’s a tempting opportunity. But there’s a minor risk: it’s crucial not to be misunderstood.

We’re on camera and I ask him – straight-faced but with a sufficiently jocular tone for him to catch on – whether he’s willing to swear to my parents that it wasn’t me, a hot-blooded Scot, who inflicted the bruise. He pounces on the chance with the same alacrity that’s brought him nearly 200 club goals in a brilliant career, taking him from the town of Mâcon, near Lyon, to the Basque Country, Spain’s capital and now Catalonia. He turns to the camera, flashes a charming French grin and gives a little “Hola!” wave. He’s enjoying this. Then he adds: “It wasn’t him – it was Giroud.”

Griezmann on learning a new philosophy at Barcelona.

Which is the truth. Immediately before our interview he’s enjoyed respite from this ongoing, testing apprenticeship at Barcelona by playing in his favoured position for France, in Albania, where he scored and assisted in the world champions’ 2-0 win. Nevertheless, he also took up his place in a wall to defend a free-kick and, when Giroud jumped to block the ball’s trajectory, the Chelsea striker levered himself higher thanks to outstretched elbows, accidentally catching Griezmann right under that left eye. C’est la vie, c’est la guerre.

But rather than a broken cheekbone, it’s been a handy ice-breaker. We’re both smiling; he knows this won’t be run of the mill. Interviewing men and women like Antoine Griezmann can be a testing business. Immense fun if it goes well, as this one does, but littered with traps. Are they in a good place? Not just that day, but in the given stage of their career. Are they tired, bored, in a bad mood, irritated by unfair media coverage, frustrated by lack of form? Will their energy levels allow them to properly engage with and enjoy the process of talking about subjects that will both entertain and inform their legions of fans?

Read the full story
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I came here to learn a new style of play, a new philosophy
By

We underestimate what we ask of these hero figures: non-stop sporting excellence, superb intensity and competitive focus, but also generosity, openness to a journalist who may or may not carry a positive agenda, and a willingness to spare ultra-precious time in a schedule that will, usually, be creaking badly at the seams. With the man from Mâcon, I needn’t have worried.

Metaphorically speaking, there was a chance that his morale or his ego, rather than his eye, might be bruised. Objectively, his time at Barcelona has already been pretty successful. A handful of goals, some crisp assists, a work ethic that any manager would kill for and the absolutely evident promise that there’s so much more to come.

But if you flirt with joining a big club, decide against it, change your mind again, then join a year later for a nine-figure fee, particularly after a brutal European defeat at Anfield has left fans desperate for saviours, then the criteria for what’s judged sufficient might change from ‘fair’ to ‘harsh’. Some have, indeed, been harsh about his debut months.

Griezmann on Messi

Griezmann has already hinted that the process of conversion from Atleti athlete to Camp Nou commander has been at least as intense, complicated and challenging as he expected. Regularly featuring on the left wing, alongside Leo Messi and Luis Suárez, situates him far from where his most fertile performances for either Diego Simeone’s Atleti or Didier Deschamps’ France have tended to be. He could be forgiven if a detailed journalistic examination of life at Barcelona was something he’d rather do, say, next April or May, with trophies either in sight or already won.

Instead, tired from travel, black-eyed and listening to Scottish-tinted Spanish, here he is. Deep into what proves to be an enjoyable chat, I ask about a painful memory. It opens up a rich seam of information via which people who strive to understand what he’s doing with this golden stage of his career should judge him.

Cover Story

Roll with the punches

Here’s an exclusive snippet from our interview with the Barcelona and France star. First things first: let’s find out who’s responsible for that shiner…

WORDS Graham Hunter | PHOTOGRAPHY Álex Caparrós

When we meet, Antoine Griezmann has a lovely big black eye. Geographically it’s just above his left cheekbone – beginning to fade from deep dark purple to what will become a sickly yellow, then eventually disappear underneath his natural, light, Mediterranean tan. For an interviewer, it’s a tempting opportunity. But there’s a minor risk: it’s crucial not to be misunderstood.

We’re on camera and I ask him – straight-faced but with a sufficiently jocular tone for him to catch on – whether he’s willing to swear to my parents that it wasn’t me, a hot-blooded Scot, who inflicted the bruise. He pounces on the chance with the same alacrity that’s brought him nearly 200 club goals in a brilliant career, taking him from the town of Mâcon, near Lyon, to the Basque Country, Spain’s capital and now Catalonia. He turns to the camera, flashes a charming French grin and gives a little “Hola!” wave. He’s enjoying this. Then he adds: “It wasn’t him – it was Giroud.”

Griezmann on learning a new philosophy at Barcelona.

Which is the truth. Immediately before our interview he’s enjoyed respite from this ongoing, testing apprenticeship at Barcelona by playing in his favoured position for France, in Albania, where he scored and assisted in the world champions’ 2-0 win. Nevertheless, he also took up his place in a wall to defend a free-kick and, when Giroud jumped to block the ball’s trajectory, the Chelsea striker levered himself higher thanks to outstretched elbows, accidentally catching Griezmann right under that left eye. C’est la vie, c’est la guerre.

But rather than a broken cheekbone, it’s been a handy ice-breaker. We’re both smiling; he knows this won’t be run of the mill. Interviewing men and women like Antoine Griezmann can be a testing business. Immense fun if it goes well, as this one does, but littered with traps. Are they in a good place? Not just that day, but in the given stage of their career. Are they tired, bored, in a bad mood, irritated by unfair media coverage, frustrated by lack of form? Will their energy levels allow them to properly engage with and enjoy the process of talking about subjects that will both entertain and inform their legions of fans?

I came here to learn a new style of play, a new philosophy
By

We underestimate what we ask of these hero figures: non-stop sporting excellence, superb intensity and competitive focus, but also generosity, openness to a journalist who may or may not carry a positive agenda, and a willingness to spare ultra-precious time in a schedule that will, usually, be creaking badly at the seams. With the man from Mâcon, I needn’t have worried.

Metaphorically speaking, there was a chance that his morale or his ego, rather than his eye, might be bruised. Objectively, his time at Barcelona has already been pretty successful. A handful of goals, some crisp assists, a work ethic that any manager would kill for and the absolutely evident promise that there’s so much more to come.

But if you flirt with joining a big club, decide against it, change your mind again, then join a year later for a nine-figure fee, particularly after a brutal European defeat at Anfield has left fans desperate for saviours, then the criteria for what’s judged sufficient might change from ‘fair’ to ‘harsh’. Some have, indeed, been harsh about his debut months.

Griezmann on Messi

Griezmann has already hinted that the process of conversion from Atleti athlete to Camp Nou commander has been at least as intense, complicated and challenging as he expected. Regularly featuring on the left wing, alongside Leo Messi and Luis Suárez, situates him far from where his most fertile performances for either Diego Simeone’s Atleti or Didier Deschamps’ France have tended to be. He could be forgiven if a detailed journalistic examination of life at Barcelona was something he’d rather do, say, next April or May, with trophies either in sight or already won.

Instead, tired from travel, black-eyed and listening to Scottish-tinted Spanish, here he is. Deep into what proves to be an enjoyable chat, I ask about a painful memory. It opens up a rich seam of information via which people who strive to understand what he’s doing with this golden stage of his career should judge him.

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