Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu has confirmed the club held talks with Antoine Griezmann’s agent as early as October.
The France star has been heavily linked with a move to Barca from Atletico Madrid at the end of the season, with Luis Suarez hinting last week that a deal could already have been agreed.
Although Atleti boss Diego Simeone denied that was the case, Griezmann – who is said to have a €100million release clause in his contract – is expected to resolve his future before the World Cup begins in June.
And Bartomeu says contact was made with the 27-year-old’s entourage early this season.
“We don’t talk about players at other clubs,” Bartomeu initially told RAC, as quoted by Sport.
He then added: “I saw Griezmann one day on holiday. We met with his agent, yes. It was in October.
“We talk with [Atleti president Enrique] Cerezo about many topics. We have a good relationship with them.”
3 – Antoine Griezmann is the first Atletico player to score in three consecutive La Liga away games against Real Madrid in the 21st century (three goals). Dance. pic.twitter.com/Y755G1jICd
— OptaJose (@OptaJose) 8 April 2018
Griezmann was initially linked with Barca last year as a possible replacement for Neymar, who joined Paris Saint-Germain for a world-record fee of €222million.
The Brazil star has been tipped to return to LaLiga with fierce rivals Real Madrid, and Bartomeu sees no reason why the move could not happen.
“He can do what he wants,” he said. “If he goes to Madrid, we’ll play against him.
“We were surprised how he left. The day he said it was done, it had already been done for some time.”
Ousmane Dembele was the player signed to replace Neymar, arriving from Borussia Dortmund for an initial fee of €105m.
The 20-year-old has struggled to make an impact this season, though, with a serious hamstring injury having kept him sidelined between September and early January.
There have been suggestions Dembele could be sent out on loan but Bartomeu insists there is no such plan.
“That option is not on the table,” he said. “We’re finishing the season and then there will be meetings.
“Dembele is a bet for our future. When a player comes to Barca, it’s because Valverde wants him. They are players who can always play. He is very young and we expect a lot of things from him.”
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