Madrid, July 6 (IANS) Atletico Madrid said that La Liga champions FC Barcelona were being less than honest about their bid to persuade French striker Antoine Griezmann to abandon the Colchoneros for the Catalan club.
Atletico management were quick to respond to statements by FC Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu, who said that his club's first contact with the 2018 World Cup champion was this week, according Efe news.
Bartomeu also discussed a meeting on Thursday between the clubs' respective general managers to discuss a possible deal for Griezmann.
"Yesterday (Thursday), we had a meeting," Bartomeu said on Friday. "Oscar Grau, our general manager, met with Miguel Angel Gil in Madrid and we began to ask him if it was possible that this can happen. There is an interest, that's why we got together."
In a statement, Atletico said that Griezmann informed Gil and coach Diego Simeone on May 14 that he would be leaving the Colchoneros at the end of the 2018-2019 La Liga season.
The Madrid club said it learned subsequently that Griezmann and Barcelona began talking in February and agreed on contract terms in March, even as Atletico were battling Juventus for a berth in the Champions League quarterfinals and still had hopes of challenging Barca for the La Liga title.
Atletico confirmed that Gil met Thursday with Barcelona counterpart Grau at the request of the Catalan club.
The 28-year-old Frenchman planned to formally terminate his contract with Atletico on June 30, when the price tag for his release clause dropped to 125 million euros ($134 million).
Atleti boosted the fee to 200 million euros in the summer of 2018 when Barcelona expressed interest in Griezmann, who ultimately opted to remain with the Colchoneros, a choice he announced in a television documentary, "La Decision".
Grau, according to the Atleti statement, asked on Thursday that Barcelona be permitted to sign Griezmann without immediately paying the release-clause fee.
"Obviously, the response of Atletico Madrid was negative, understanding that both Futbol Club Barcelona and the player have lacked respect for Atletico Madrid and for all its supporters," the capital side said.
"As a consequence of all this," the statement said, Atletico informed Griezmann, his representative (the player's sister, Maud Griezmann) and his attorney that the forward must report to the club's training facility on Sunday for the start of preseason practice.
Atletico accused Barcelona of having "induced" Griezmann to end his contract with the Colchoneros in violation of "the basic norms that govern the integrity of every sporting competition".
Griezmann has scored 133 goals in 256 matches for Atletico Madrid since joining the club five years ago. Atleti have won three trophies during his tenure: the 2014 Spanish Super Cup; the 2019 Europa League and the 2019 European Super Cup.
He was named La Liga player of the year in 2016.