Martin Braithwaite is a more impactful player than Antoine Griezmann for Barcelona right now. And there you have it: A sentence that nobody, ever, expected to have to type.
Braithwaite was signed for €18 million from Leganes in February given the long-term absences of Ousmane Dembele and Luis Suarez. As regular listeners of The Barcelona Podcast know, I was shocked to see how the Barca board preferred the Danish international to options such as William José (Real Sociedad), Angel Rodriguez (Getafe), Lucas Pérez (Deportivo Alavés).
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To say that Cules had very little faith in Braithwaite would be an understatement. Sure, the 29-year-old had been prolific for Leganes but surely playing next to Messi would be a step too far for him?
From his very first match at Barcelona, however, Braithwaite showed a level of willingness, freshness and determination that put some of his teammates to shame – to the point that, despite it still being early days in his Barca career, I can see him becoming a Camp Nou favourite in the near future.
I was pleasantly surprised to see how impactful Braithwaite was in his first match after three months stuck at home due to the Covid pandemic. Quique Setien trusted him as a starter against Mallorca, and the Dane did not disappoint: Purposeful vertical runs, constant dynamism, simplicity of execution and, above all, much-needed bursts of pace which generated spaces for himself and others.
Braithwaite talked to Barca TV after scoring his first Barcelona goal: “I’ve been waiting for it for a long time, so it’s amazing to score my first goal. It was most important to start like we did on Saturday, so we are happy and we have to continue like this. As a forward you want to score goals and I’ve been working a lot during the break from LaLiga, and I’ve been really looking forward to playing this game and hopefully getting a goal and I’m happy, I’m really happy.”
“It’s really important because we have to start with confidence, and to score four goals and not concede any goals is really important for us.”
“We started well and just built our confidence and we need that to continue pursuing what we want.”
In clear contrast, I must admit that Antoine Griezmann failed to make any significant impact, especially in attack. Having been signed for €120M, a transfer fee over ten times higher than Braithwaite’s, I would honestly expect much more production in Barca’s attacking third at this point.
While I can see that Griezmann also has the correct attitude and is trying his hardest to fit into Setien’s formation, it is pointless to argue the very obvious fact that his performances on the pitch do not yet justify his price-tag.
Dan argued how Griezmann is working in Setien’s system in the Mallorca match review.
More often that not, the French international looks lost in the pitch, as if he hadn’t quite worked out what he should and shouldn’t do within a formation which, let’s face it, has Messi as the main protagonist – and rightly so.
Fortunately for him, Griezmann continues to have Setien’s confidence, at least in front of the media: “Griezmann is indisputable. He has played almost every game since we were here. It is true there are more players now and more minutes to share.”
“All the players are different and will see how the competition evolved and what the teams needs are at certain moments. But Griezmann is a great player, we keep on counting on him and will have his protagonism because he is really important for this team and this club.”
As I discussed in much more depth in our latest The Barcelona Podcast, only time will tell whether Braithwaite is ultimately preferred to Griezmann. Personally, I strongly believe that it is becoming harder and harder to justify the World Cup winner being picked ahead of his much more impactful teammate.