MADRID (Reuters) - France striker Antoine Griezmann will leave Atletico Madrid at the end of the season, the player said in a video released on the club’s official Twitter account on Tuesday.
The 28-year-old did not reveal where he would be playing next but widespread reports in the Spanish media said he would be joining Barcelona, who he famously rejected last year before penning a new contract with Atletico until 2023.
World Cup winner Griezmann, who signed a new five-year contract last June, said he had told Atletico coach Diego Simeone and chief executive Miguel Angel Gil Marin of his decision and addressed the supporters in the video message.
“After speaking to Simeone and Miguel Angel and the club hierarchy I wanted to immediately tell you, the Atletico fans who have always given me a lot of love that I have taken the decision to leave, to see other things, to have other challenges,” he said.
“The truth is it has been difficult to arrive to this point but I feel it’s what I need to do, I want to thank you for all the support you have given me in these five years, where I won my first trophies.”
Griezmann rejected an offer from Barca last June, documenting his internal struggles about whether to make the move in a landmark documentary called ‘The Decision’, produced by Barcelona defender Gerard Pique’s Kosmos production company.
The last contract he signed initially raised his release clause to 200 million euros (£173.70 million) but several media reports say that figure will drop to 120 million on July 1.
Griezmann, who joined Atletico from Real Sociedad for a reported 30 million euros in 2014, has been the team’s top scorer in each of the five seasons he has been at the club.
He was Atletico’s inspirational figure when they won the 2018 Europa League, scoring twice in a 3-0 win over Olympique Marseilles in the final, before helping them win the UEFA Super Cup. Griezmann also lifted the Spanish Super Cup in 2014.
He played in the 2016 Champions League final, which Atletico lost on penalties to Real Madrid, and was named as the third best player in the world at that year’s FIFA Ballon d’Or awards.
“I’ve had some incredible moments which I’ll always remember, I’ll always hold Atletico fans in my heart, it’s never easy to make a decision like this,” added Griezmann.
“Many thanks for everything, I have really enjoyed myself in the last five years, I’ve given everything on the pitch and I’ve always tried to be a good person.
“I have tried to give lots of joy to the fans at the Wanda Metropolitano and to our fans at away games, many thanks from my heart and until next time.”
Griezmann is the latest high profile player to announce that he is leaving Atletico at the end of the season.
France defender Lucas Hernandez agreed to join Bayern Munich when they paid his 80-million euro release clause and long-serving captain Diego Godin’s contract is coming to an end.
Reporting by Richard Martin; editing by Ken Ferris