May 16, 2018 / 11:15 PM / 2 months ago

Soccer: Simeone lauds "decisive" Griezmann, urges him to stay

LYON, France (Reuters) - Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone praised the “decisive” Antoine Griezmann after his two goals helped down Olympique de Marseille 3-0 in the Europa League final on Wednesday and tried to convince the striker to resist the lure of Barcelona.

Soccer Football - Europa League Final - Olympique de Marseille vs Atletico Madrid - Groupama Stadium, Lyon, France - May 16, 2018 Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone with his medal as he celebrates winning the Europa league REUTERS/Peter Cziborra

The France international produced an ice-cool finish beyond Marseille goalkeeper Steve Mandanda to put Atletico in charge and he started and finished an exquisite move which effectively killed off the French side early in the second half.

Captain Gabi’s late strike rubber-stamped Atletico’s third Europa League triumph since 2010 and gave Griezmann his first major trophy with the team.

“Griezmann today confirmed what he has been doing year by year. He was decisive in the most important moment in the game,” Simeone told a news conference.

“I hope that he is happy to play for us. He’s played three finals with us and won two. Now we are in the UEFA Super Cup, so he could play four finals with us. So on a sporting level we aren’t so far from the clubs that have more power than us.”

Griezmann has been Atletico’s leading scorer in each season since he joined from Real Sociedad for 25 million euros ($30 million) in 2014, and his double took him on to 29 goals in all competitions this campaign.

Griezmann had hogged most of the attention before the final amid speculation he is about to end his four-year stay at Atletico to move to 25-times Spanish champions Barca when his buy-out clause drops to 100 million euros.

“It’s a decision that he will have to come to. Whatever he decides I’ll be happy because he has given us his life,” Simeone added.

“If he stays I’ll be delighted and if he leaves I’ll be grateful for everything he’s done for us.

“He’s given us a lot, he gave us a leap in quality as a team. If he stays we’ll keep growing because we are destined to keep growing.”

The 27-year-old Griezmann, who collected the man-of-the-match award, declined to discuss whether he would stay or leave Atletico at the end of the season.

“I think now is not the moment to talk about my future, I just want to enjoy myself after my performance, after winning a trophy and I want to celebrate with the fans,” Griezmann told reporters.

“Simeone has taught me a lot, he made me become a better player and I hope I can keep improving every year, in every game. I owe a lot to Simeone and my team mates.”

The striker missed a penalty in the 2016 Champions League final against Real Madrid which his side lost in a shootout and that made him more determined to perform against Marseille.

“It was a dream of mine to win a trophy with Atleti, with Simeone and with my team mates,” Griezmann added.

“It wasn’t meant to be in the Champions League, but I said to myself that tonight was going to be night and so it was.”

Reporting by Richard Martin, editing by Ed Osmond

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