A move to giant club could maximise Antoine Griezmann's popularity, earnings
Atletico Madrid forward Antoine Griezmann could seriously improve his off-pitch earning potential by joining one of Europe's top clubs, according to Prime Time Sport CEO Esteve Calzada.
Griezmann's emergence as a top player on the pitch for both Atletico and France in recent years has been accompanied by a marked increase in the scope and prestige of the off-pitch deals agreed by his advisors.
However according to Forbes, the 25-year-old remains well behind the world's top two earners Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi in earnings, and has not yet reached the rung occupied by established figures like Barcelona's Neymar, Real Madrid's Gareth Bale or Manchester United's Wayne Rooney and Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
The reported United, Arsenal and Real Madrid target is doing very well commercially, Calzada told ESPN FC in a phone interview, but he is not quite on the level of top global star.
"Griezmann is definitely up there, but still a step behind," the marketing expert and licensed player's agent said. "That could come with Atletico maybe winning the Champions League. Or with a move to one of the top three or four clubs in the world.
"That is the only step he is missing to be in line with these top players. When you work for a club like the ones we are describing, in a good year, I would expect him to collect with other teams maybe €3 million to €5m, only in image rights income. Maybe even more if he goes to a bigger club. Playing in the UK is always more lucrative, as the market is bigger than the Spanish market, for instance."
Calzada recently blogged about Griezmann's impressive list of commercial partners, and massive number of followers on Twitter (3.5 million), Instagram (8.7 million) and Facebook (6.7 million). "Griezmann has a large collection of brands which is very remarkable considering he is not playing for any of the really top teams," he says. "Atletico are a big team, but they are not Barcelona or Real Madrid or Manchester United. [Still] he is in the spotlight all the time."
Joining Arsenal would not have the same impact as a move to Man United, Calzada explained, as the Old Trafford outfit are still perceived as much bigger despite not being in the Champions League recently.
"After what happened recently [against Bayern Munich in the Champions League], there is more and more talk about Arsenal not being a winning team anymore," he says. "It has been a long time with no [big] trophies. It is a very popular club, of course, but United is a different animal. Even without being successful lately, they keep on growing their commercial revenues, as the brand is so strong. Arsenal definitely one step behind United in terms of size, and in terms of potential that he can realise."
A potential move to either the Bernabeu or the Camp Nou runs the risk of alienating a large portion of your potential fanbase, Calzada warns.
"Sometimes brands fear associating themselves with a Barca or Madrid player, just to avoid any potential negatives from the opposite side," he says. "It reminds me a little bit of 2010, when the most popular Spain player in terms of image rights was David Villa. He was playing for Valencia then, but he was much more successful than any Barca or Madrid player, just because of this lack of polarisation effect."
There has been speculation that should he move to Old Trafford, Griezmann could benefit from taking the No. 7 shirt which is extra special due to high profile past wearers including George Best, Eric Cantona, David Beckham and Cristiano Ronaldo.
"That is an iconic number, which helps," Calzada says. "But it is just one nice thing in the picture. As long as you are a United regular, in the team, you are gonna be big. We have seen the impact [Paul] Pogba has created [since his world record transfer from Juventus last summer]. I am being told that he is the number one shirt seller in the world. So with Griezmann probably something similar could happen."
As Barcelona's chief marketing and commercial officer from 2002-07, Calzada says he has firsthand experience of how much a player's off-field value influences a club's transfer decisions.
"I was involved in some of those conversations when I was at Barcelona, and the first thing you need is the green light from the football people," he says. "Then you work on the numbers. Between two players of similar characteristics, or who both have the sign-off from the football [end], if one is much more popular commercially you will definitely go for that player."
Calzada is careful about offering any specific advice to Griezmann in his current moment, and he points out that Atletico's growth in recent years means that they do not have to sell their best players when a big offer comes from another club.
"I'm not aware of the conversations, and how possible it is that he moves," he says. "I know for a fact that Atletico are keen on keeping him, and actually they have done a great job recently, this is credit to [Atletico CEO] Miguel Angel Gil Marin. I
!t's not like the past when they had to sell any player when they get a good offer, or they could not afford the salary the players ask for. We have seen them join the European elite, and they can afford to pay high salaries. There is the case not only of Griezmann, also Koke, who had offers from Barcelona and the club were able to retain the talent. Let's see what happens."
Dermot Corrigan is a Madrid-based football writer who covers La Liga and the Spain national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @dermotmcorrigan