Some images date more quickly than others. The picture of Antoine Griezmann, Lucas Hernandez and Thomas Lemar showing off the World Cup to Atletico Madrid fans before a game against Rayo Vallecano in 2018 has not stood the test of time.
Hernandez, having come through the youth team at Atletico Madrid, is now at Bayern Munich. Griezmann is at Barcelona. And Lemar, Griezmann’s close friend and brought in on his request that summer, is still at the club but some of the supporters feel he might as well not be.
When Atletico brought in Lemar in 2018 the reasons were three-fold. They knew they were buying quality and international experience but they also thought this would help them change their playing style and keep Griezmann happy.
Thomas Lemar (centre) was signed by Atletico Madrid as a World Cup-winning star
Lemar joined Atletico Madrid for a £62million fee and was a club-record signing at the time
They had upped Griezmann’s wages to encourage him to turn down Barcelona and they had signed one of his closest friends.
The gesture worked for a season but it was not a particularly happy campaign and Griezmann left in 2019. And as for the style makeover, it fell by the wayside when results did not accompany it.
It was hard for Atletico to suddenly play attractive, expansive football just because they were playing in a glistening new arena and had a £62million midfielder in their midst.
A £62m transfer fee was also a good deal considering Arsenal had bid £80m the previous summer when the Frenchman was at Monaco. The Gunners looked like they were selling Alexis Sanchez to Manchester City and Lemar was being lined up as a replacement, but both deals fell through on the summer deadline day.
Lemar (back) was signed by Atleti to convince striker Antoine Griezmann to stay a little longer
Instead, Lemar played one more year in France before moving to Diego Simeone’s side for what was then an unprecedented fee for Los Rojiblancos.
Last summer any weight of pressure on Lemar’s shoulders about being the club’s all-time highest transfer fee evaporated in the time it took for Joao Felix to sign his contract and become a £114m acquisition.
But Lemar’s earlier season form was as flat as the team’s in general and Atletico Madrid’s mini rival – powering them past Liverpool in the Champions League, and into third place in La Liga, did not sweep up Lemar and carry him along.
Thomas Lemar ended the 2019-20 La Liga season with 0 goals and 0 assists to his name
The France international finished with just 10 starts in his 22 appearances, and zero goal contributions through goals or assists.
The miserable return was three goals short of his tally last season and there was a more damning statistic still.
Atletico Madrid have only scored once in 2020 with Lemar on the pitch. He has been overtaken by the whirlwind late-season form of the transformed Marcos Llorente and by a revitalised Yannick Carrasco. He is even behind another…