As the league title slipped further away from Barcelona on Tuesday night it looked as if something else very big has been thrown away – their £108million investment in Antoine Griezmann.
As Barcelona made it just two points from their last two games, drawing 2-2 with Atletico Madrid, it was difficult not to feel for Griezmann as he warmed up through the second half, came on at the 90-minute mark, and then barely touched the ball in the final few minutes of the match.
Barcelona coach Quique Setien said he would speak to Griezmann about giving him just injury-time to make an impression but would ‘not apologise’.
Griezmann’s father Alain took to social media on Wednesday to hit back, saying: ‘To have this sort of conversation he needs to be the one with the keys to the truck, and in this case, he’s just a passenger.’
Asked after the game what he thought of Griezmann getting so little time to make an impact, there was a half-grin from Diego Simeone as he said ‘no comment’ and darted off-camera before the television directors could go back to the interviewing journalist or the presenter.
Simeone feels that he played a big part in transforming Griezmann into an all-inclusive modern forward capable of playing anywhere; once he flew the nest it was down to him to make it and so far he hasn’t.
The warning signs that he was moving further away from being accepted, not closer, were there post-lockdown.
When the players came back to training in May, Griezmann never once found himself in the same group as the man he has to click with if he is going to make it at Barcelona: Lionel Messi.
Even when the squad was training in two groups of 11, Griezmann was in one group, and Messi and Luis Suarez were in the other. It’s difficult to know if this was by design or otherwise.
After Griezmann’s few minutes against Atletico his brother posted a picture of himself with Antoine after the World Cup final, on social media. The message was clear. It’s not just anyone Setien is deciding to ignore, it’s a world champion.
Theo Griezmann slammed Setien in now-deleted tweets after the Frenchman was subbed on for only a few minutes against his former side.
There is a feeling around the player that Messi needs to be persuaded to bring Griezmann into the fold as he did with Neymar and has subsequently done with 17-year-old Ansu Fati. But there is no one at Barcelona capable of persuading Messi to do anything.
He might have listened in the past to Pep Guardiola or to Txiki Begiristain or to former president Joan Laporta. He definitely would have listened to the late Tito Vilanova and, although they briefly fell out, he would have listened to Luis Enrique.
But now there is no one who has his ear. He sees weakness and incompetence among the people who run the club so he goes his own way. And his own way has never included giving Griezmann the three amigos status that Neymar enjoyed.
How long before Griezmann decides to go where he is wanted. He is still only 29. There would be no shortage of takers if he were to indicate that he wanted to annul the marriage with Barcelona after only one year.
They would not stand in his way such are their financial needs. But currently he has no intention of walking away; no interest in moving to England or back to France.
Next season he wants to take the No 7 shirt originally given to Philippe Coutinho but was unused this season with him out on loan at Bayern Munich. Having the number he wore for Atletico Madrid and world champions France, he believes, will give him wings again.
A new coach might change things too. If the title race is won by Real Madrid and does not go to the wire, then it seems unlikely that Setien will be given the chance to lead the team into the Champions League.
‘Is there anything wrong with Griezmann?’ Setien was asked on Tuesday night. ‘He seems in good shape to me,’ said Setien, adding: ‘But they can’t all play. Decisions have to be made.’
In reference to bringing him on at the 90-minute mark, Setien said: ‘I know it’s not logical to put him on at the point of the match. I would have put him on before but I thought we were playing well and Messi and Suarez, you always have to have them on the pitch.’
A new manager might be more determined in his efforts to integrate Griezmann. For now he is on the fringes, fast following the footsteps of Coutinho and (Ousmane) Dembele – in what will amount to a £348m waste of money if neither three of them can be recuperated.