Linked with big-money moves to Arsenal, Manchester United and Paris Saint-Germain in recent years, highly-rated French striker Alexandre Lacazette could be about to join Atlético Madrid, if reports are to believed.
The 2016 Champions League runners-up are currently banned from making any signings until January next year, but Cadena Cope are reporting that the Lyon striker has committed to joining Los Colchoneros if their appeal is successful and they are able to register new recruits this.
Despite being constantly linked with a big-money move to Manchester United this summer, it is believed that star striker Antoine Griezmann, an international colleague of Lacazette’s, was instrumental in recommending the player to Atleti as well as convincing the 25-year-old to swap Ligue 1 for LaLiga.
As yet there is no formal agreement in place between Atlético and Lacazette over personal terms, while the Spanish side will also need to agree a fee with Lyon, who will likely demand in excess of €50million for their star man.
But Lacazette's departure from Parc OL at the end of the current campaign seems inevitable, with the player telling Canal+ last month that he is ready for a new challenge.
“I think this summer will be the moment for a change of scenery and discover something else,” he said, “always with the idea of moving forward and improving.
“I'm going to keep working with the hope that good opportunities will come along this summer.”
How Griezmann And Lacazette Could Work Together
On paper, Griezmann and Lacazette could form a frightening partnership. The Atleti No.7 is at his best when playing as a second striker in behind a more traditional centre-forward, operating in the spaces that open up in the final third when his partner stretches play.
In that sense, Lacazette, with his pace and driving, powerful forwards runs, is tailor made to team up in attack with the Manchester United transfer target.
Griezmann has an impressive scoring record of 14 goals from 27 appearances in LaLiga this term, but it is the Frenchman’s creative powers that make him an all-round threat to opposing defences, creating 1.7 chances for team-mates per 90 minutes.
If Lacazette were to join the 2013-14 Spanish champions, he would likely find himself battling for a starting berth with another compatriot, however, in Kévin Gameiro, a €32million signing from Sevilla last summer.
After a slow start to life at the Vicente Calderón, Gameiro, who is a fast, direct striker with lethal finishing skills, has found his feet, bagging 10 league goals and 14 from 39 games in all competitions.
But it would be hard to argue that Lacazette would not represent an upgrade on the 29-year-old. The Lyon academy graduate has bagged 22 goals in Ligue 1 this term from 74 shots, including blocked efforts, for a staggering average of just 3.36 shots for every goal scored – Gameiro requires 4.5 attempts to find the net.
Could Lacazette’s Arrival Lead To Griezmann’s Exit?
Griezmann’s future has been the subject of much speculation in recent months, with Manchester United supposedly willing to meet his £85million contractual release clause, while the player himself has admitted that he’d love to play alongside close friend Paul Pogba at club level some day.
But the latest reports, including one published by the Independent earlier this month, indicate that the Red Devils are less confident of pulling off such a deal than they were previously, with Griezmann insisting he is happy at the Calderón.
However, with Atleti in the process of constructing a new stadium, which they hope to move into at the start of next season, some believe that they may need to cash in on one of their stars in order balance the books.
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Despite insistences to the contrary, the arrival of a high-profile, top-class forward such as Lacazette could be a PR exercise in softening the blow of selling Griezmann, even though the two players differ stylistically. Such a switch would see Atleti turn a healthy profit while appeasing the fans who would otherwise be dismayed at losing their hero.
Lacazette would not be able to take Griezmann’s place in the starting XI as he is a more out-and-out striker than his compatriot, who prefers to play in between the lines of the oposition’s midfield and defence.
But as the focal point higher up the pitch, the Lyon man is a more well-rounded proposition than Gameiro, and Griezmann’s second striker position could be taken by a young, developing star like Yannick Ferreira Carrasco or Ángel Correa, or even by Nicolás Gaitán, a €25million signing from Benfica last season.
Lacazette’s ability to lead the line as a central striker could also negate the need for a support striker altogether, and open up the possibility of Simeone deploying a more conventional No.10 behind the Frenchman, or even switching to a 4-3-3 formation if he sees fit.
With no deal to take Lacazette to Madrid yet signed, there is still time for a Premier League side to steal in and try to turn the players head by offering a greater wage packet than Atleti could afford.
The prospect of joining Simeone's project and a team full of young, gifted superstars-in-the-making, however, could be priceless to a player with Lacazette's ambition.