Antoine Griezmann is enjoying a rich vein of form in La Liga. As lethal as a black mamba, he has scored seven goals in 10 matches this season and has been able to adapt to the centre forward position after he started his career playing as a left-winger and an attacking midfielder. The 24-year-old Frenchman is especially motivated as his country holds the European Championships next June. He knows he is in the most important season of his career, especially so when Arsenal and Chelsea are both linked strongly with a move for Atletico's number seven, according to the Daily Express.
Speaking to IBTimes UK, Spanish legend Jesús Mari Zamora has praised Griezmann's peak form. He was considered one of the best midfielders of the early 1980s – alongside Michel Platini. The former Real Sociedad player won two league titles and the Spanish Cup, featured in 30 games with Spain's national team and, during his tenure as a manager, played a role in nurturing the likes of Xabi Alonso and Mikel Arteta.
Zamora was at Real Sociedad when Griezmann signed at the age of 14. He had some doubts concerning the Atlético player, doubts that were dispelled over the last few seasons, and he now believes Griezmann is ready to join a Premier League club next summer. "Arsenal or Chelsea? He will succeed wherever he plays," he said.
"When it comes to Antoine Griezmann, it is fascinating to see how he has been able to deal with his flaws. When I first saw him at the age of 13 he reminded me of Xabi Alonso or Mikel Arteta because it was obvious that he had special skills, but I had doubts because he was extremely weak. Very skinny, it was not obvious that he was going to be such a superb player. At these ages, you never know if they are going to get stronger or not. He was not able to dribble, he was not especially fast and nobody spoke about him in the club".
Olympique Lyonnais released him during a training camp due to his lack of strength. But Real Sociedad's scout, Eric Olhats, saw him at the training session and handed him a note. "Do not open it until you arrive home and you are with your parents," he told him. The note said: "Do you want to play and live in San Sebastian?"
Griezmann was very lucky. In 2009, he was in the right place at the right time. Real Sociedad were teetering on the brink of bankruptcy, they tried to sign a Colombian player – Jonathan Estrada – but negotiations were long and complicated.
Martín Lasarte, the manager, asked the club to promote a youngster able to play matches during the first training sessions as the deal for Estrada faltered. The two first options, two youngsters, were both injured so someone suggested that Antoine Griezmann could be the chosen one. It was something provisional but during that summer, from day one, he started scoring week in, week out. Months later, he was the star of the team in their return to La Liga.
"He started playing on the wing because the club had no players on the left but Griezmann should always play in centre positions," Zamora added. "Without the ball, he is one of the best forwards in the world. He recovers possession easily, he opens spaces for his team mates, he is always in the right place of the pitch, one of the main reasons he is so potent in the air despite standing just 5ft 9 ins tall.
"He is very smart and his versatility is priceless because I have seen him playing in almost all the midfield and attack positions. That gives loads of options to managers such as Jose Mourinho or Arsene Wenger. It is curious because he is not especially gifted when it comes to dribbling or carving through the rivals' defence, but he does not complicate his life, he is one of the smartest players in La Liga, he always makes the right decisions.
"It is simply amazing how easily he scores goals. So far, he has produced finishing of the highest quality. It is his ambition, his will to be one of the best players in the world has made this possible. Atlético may need to sell him at some point in the next months, as happened with Sergio Agüero, Radamel Falcao and Diego Costa. But it is remarkable how this club is able to work with raw diamonds such as Griezmann."
Premier League football leaves more open spaces and this suits Griezmann, Zamora believes: Hhe always finds the way to occupy spaces, he has a killer instinct and the more disorganised a rival is, the more chances the French international has to score or assist. It is too soon to say that he is going to be in European football's top three players but he is on the right track. I have seen him progressing every season, he never gets stuck."