"Make your life a dream and a dream a reality": the formula lent to the aviator writer Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, author of the successful tale "The little prince", sticks to the skin of the playmaker of the Blues, and even literally since it appears on a tattoo of his right forearm.

Born in Mâcon, the player chained unsuccessful tries in adolescence in several French clubs, in particular in Lyon which had considered him too frail.

Spain made him grow, from Real Sociedad to Atlético Madrid, but it is with the selection that he dreams big and it shows, abroad.

"When he plays with France, he transcends himself, he bends over backwards", he is then "another player", "a world-class player", affirms the former Senegalese striker El-Hadji Diouf.

"Griezmann plays the role of Pogba, Kanté and Benzema, he makes an impressive World Cup", also salutes Pablo Zabaleta, the ex-defender of Argentina, opponent of the Blues Sunday in the final.

Perfect fit

The former French internationals interviewed by AFP all pay tribute to the N.7 of the Blues, with the remarkable slaughter during this World Cup in a role of remote midfielder very different from the position of attacker occupied four years ago in Russia .

"He is out of the ordinary, exceptional from all points of view", enthuses Luis Fernandez, midfielder European champion in 1984. "In the heart of the game, he is precise, present. I admire him in the same way as I admired N'Golo Kanté at the last World Cup. In this register, he is everywhere, he is efficient and he brings his touch to him".

Griezmann is the one who stabilizes the blue ship when it pitches in the middle of a match, according to him.

"In these moments, he is present, he does not give up, he does not hide, he assumes".

It allows "boys like Mbappé, Giroud, Dembélé, Tchouaméni and Rabiot to have a leader to lean on. He doesn't make noise, he doesn't make waves, he's happy".

"As long as Antoine had not been used in this position, we could not suspect it. He married this role with great desire and great success", supports former defender Mikaël Silvestre, pointing his "still vital" role in the semi-final against Morocco.

French striker Antoine Griezmann during the 2022 World Cup semi-final against Morocco, in Al Khor, December 14, 2022 © FRANCK FIFE / AFP

A raking midfielder, Griezmann sacrificed some of his offensive pretensions to ensure the balance of a team rich in attackers.

His goalless streak, which began well before the World Cup, now stretches to fourteen matches.

"For the past two years, he was scoring goals but his performances were perhaps more below," remarks Youri Djorkaeff, ex-striker or attacking midfielder.

"There, he is flamboyant, he immediately understood his role, from the first match. It is the balance of this offensive force", underlines the 1998 world champion and 2000 European champion.

"In the eleven of legend"

For Fernandez, his current success is all the more brilliant as he went through dark periods during two missed years at Barça (2019-2021).

"He thought he was going to turn a corner, be on the way to Messi, which was not the case" and this career choice "made him step back, go down, doubt".

Returning to Atlético, "he managed to turn the situation around, congratulations to him, you have to be strong, very strong mentally."

For the former PSG midfielder, current consultant for beIN Sports, Griezmann would certainly be "a legend in France" if he won a second World Cup on Sunday at 31.

"Already, win one… I haven't won it, I can tell you that it's important to win it".

Where to place "Grizou" in the tricolor football guestbook?

"In the legendary eleven of the France team, there would be competition with Platini, with Zidane, perhaps we could put him as a midfielder. But he is one of those boys, "says Fernandez.

French striker Randal Kolo Muani (c.) with French striker Antoine Griezmann (l.) and French defender Ibrahima Konaté (r.) during the semi-final of the World Cup against Morocco, in Al Khor, on 14 December 2022 © GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP

On Wednesday, the N.7 of the Blues said he "cried" after the half won against Belgium in 2018, but not this time after Morocco.

"Instead of celebrating the final, we have our feet on the ground," said the "little prince" of the Blues.

To hope to win a second star, it is probably ideal.


© 2022 AFP