Antoine Griezmann has eclipsed Zinédine Zidane, Raymond Kopa and Karim Benzema to become the top-scoring Frenchman in a single Liga season: Joe Walker pays tribute.
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Two goals in Saturday's win against Elche CF moved Antoine Griezmann on to 22 Liga goals for the season – the highest total recorded by a French player in a single Spanish top-division campaign.
With eight goals in his last five Liga outings, the Club Atlético de Madrid forward has surpassed the previous French benchmark of 21 set by Real Madrid CF striker Karim Benzema in the 2011/12 season. With five games still to go, Griezmann will have his sights set on extending that record even further.
The 24-year-old joined Atlético from Real Sociedad de Fútbol last summer in a €30m deal, and is making up for lost time, having initially struggled to make an impact in the Spanish capital. Something of a bit-part player in the autumn, Griezmann was deployed as a central striker by Diego Simeone, as opposed to his customary position on the left wing, and it is a role that he took time to get used to, but one his boss always believed he could thrive in.
"I was always convinced that he could be a lethal player when playing on the shoulder of the last defender," said Simeone after the Elche game, in which Griezmann secured his third successive two-goal Liga haul. "When he plays out wide you lose some of his attacking power."
That attacking power was not much in evidence in the first part of the season; it took until November for him to score his first Liga goals – two in a 4-2 victory against Córdoba CF – but a hat-trick in a 4-1 win at Athletic Club in his final game of 2014 heralded better times to come: he has scored 16 goals in his subsequent 16 Liga appearances. He matched best previous season tally of 16 at the start of this month, and has long since outstripped fellow Atlético new recruit Mario Mandžukić, his strike partner having scored 12 for the Spanish champions.
"Since joining, I have been at the disposal of the team and of the coach," Griezmann told Champions Matchday. "I knew I would integrate into the side little by little. I didn't worry too much and now I am in the starting XI. I need to continue working hard on helping the team and on meeting the coach's expectations." Those expectations continue to rise.