Atletico Madrid last night defeated Olympique de Marseille 3-0 to win the Europa League trophy. However, the drama of the emphatic win was centered on one departing man called Antoine Griezmann, whom the news has it played his final game for Atletico Madrid. He is heavily linked with a move to Barcelona.
Griezmann, who is expected to join Barcelona this summer, had not won a single major honour with Diego Simeone’s side before now, can now leave with his name securely placed in Atletico folklore after an inspirational display to seal the Europa League. The Frenchman netted either side of half-time, first thanks to a mistake from Marseille’s Andre Zambo Anguissa and the second the result of a neat one-two with the equally talented playmaker Koke. The match was won by the time Gabi thundered in the third in the 89th minute to allow celebrations to begin early. For the two enfant terribles in the recent history of the Premier League, this Europa League final threw up two sorely contrasting evenings.
As for Dimitri Payet, the dazzling playmaker that stole the hearts of West Ham supporters in England before tearing them apart, it was a night of heartache. Payet, the Marseille captain, who was injured early in the game saw his team fall a goal behind when Griezmann profited from an error in the first-half and disappointment turned to agony when he pulled up with a muscular injury shortly afterwards. As he departed the field, tears spilled down his face and with France set to name their World Cup squad on Thursday, the omens do not bode well for one of their most gifted players.
Little wonder his French international team-mate and opponent on the night Griezmann consoled Payet on his way off, caressing his cheek and kissing him on the forehead. Payet had been nursing a thigh injury in the lead-up to the game but insisted in a press conference on Tuesday that he was fit and ready to shine. It is, sadly, a gamble that spectacularly backfired. Payet is now 31 and this was almost certainly his last opportunity to compete at a World Cup.