Griezmann's potentially perfect sign-off and more Europa League final talking points

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Clinical: Antoine Griezmann grabbed two goals.

Antoine Griezmann struck a superb brace to help seal Atletico Madrid‘s third Europa League title on Wednesday evening as Diego Simeone’s men eased to a 3-0 success over Marseille in Lyon.

The France striker was in imperious form and ultimately made the real difference as Atleti finally got their hands on a first major European trophy since 2012, having lost their past two Champions League finals to city rivals Real Madrid in 2014 and 2016.

Griezmann’s opener arrived in the 21st minute when he latched on to a Gabi knock-on, following a disastrous first touch by Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa, and then sold goalkeeper Steve Mandanda the wrong way with a clinical finish.

The game was virtually over four minutes into the second-half as Koke found the striker’s fleet-of-foot run into the box and Griezmann exquisitely chipped the ball into the net. Gabi then got on the scoresheet for the third late on.

Earlier, things could have been so different when Marseille’s inspired captain Dimitri Payet – who later went off injured in the first-half – had released Valere Germain for a run on goal four minutes in, but he spurned a great opportunity. That was the closest they came.

Here, we look at the key taking points from the match.

A LAST ATLETI HURRAH FOR GRIEZMANN?

The transfer saga surrounding the Frenchman and his reportedly impending switch to Barcelona is set to continue to dominate speculation all summer.

With the World Cup coming up fast on the rails, in which the 26-year-old will be a star turn for France, the player himself will probably call the shots on his future. Whether his love four-year love affair with Atleti will be prolonged by another 12 months or the Blaugrana meet his supposed €100m release clause or not, it remains to be seen, but this was the perfect way to well and truly sign off, on a big stage, in possibly his penultimate game for the club.

Griezmann is the fulcrum to this team and loves playing under head coach Diego Simeone.

Will that be enough to convince him to stay? Unlikely. Atleti have lost star strikers in the past: Fernando Torres, Diego Forlan and Sergio Aguero to name but a few, but his departure would hurt.

This was his first major trophy for the club given he arrived after their La Liga success of 2014, so perhaps the time is as good as any to move on.

Atletico Madrid's French forward Antoine Griezmann scores the second goal past Marseille's French goalkeeper Steve Mandanda during the UEFA Europa League final football match between Olympique de Marseille and Club Atletico de Madrid at the Parc OL stadium in Decines-Charpieu, near Lyon on May 16, 2018. (Photo by FRANCK FIFE / AFP) (Photo credit should read FRANCK FIFE/AFP/Getty Images)

Clinical: Griezmann.

ARE PAYET’S WORLD CUP HOPES OVER?

France coach Didier Deschamps dropped Payet from his France squad for friendlies in March, in a move which served as a masterstroke. The 31-year-old, who is blessed with the kind of natural footballing ability only few players can dream about, subsequently picked himself up from a mid-season slump in spectacular fashion. 10 assists in 11 matches followed, as well as four goals, heading into Wednesday’s final. A return to the Les Bleu fold looked certain again.

But, after just 32 minutes in the showpiece, that dream – with Deschamps naming his squad for Russia on Thursday – appeared extinguished for the playmaker. He limped off in tears with a muscular problem, not only knowing that he could do nothing to rejuvenate a desperate Olympians side as their chief talisman, but his World Cup hopes lie in tatters too.

Payet’s tears when he was subbed off, for Cristiano Ronaldo fans, were a certain kind of Karma. Two years ago, in the Euro 2016 final, the then West Ham star targeted Portugal’s hero and ended his game in the first-half with a crunching tackle. Ronaldo and Portugal went on to win then. So again, Payet didn’t have the last laugh.

TOPSHOT - Marseille's French forward Dimitri Payet reacts after being defeated by Atletico at the end of the UEFA Europa League final football match between Olympique de Marseille and Club Atletico de Madrid at the Parc OL stadium in Decines-Charpieu, near Lyon on May 16, 2018. (Photo by Boris HORVAT / AFP) (Photo credit should read BORIS HORVAT/AFP/Getty Images)

Tearful night: Dimitri Payet came off injured in the first-half.

SIMEONE IS THE MESSIAH

The Argentine watched the final from the stands as punishment for his touchline behaviour during the semi-final first leg against Arsenal.

A man of Simeone’s stature and influence was always going to be missed from the technical area – but his players, like they always do, gave it everything for their manager out there. Long-term lieutenant German Burgos deputised at pitch-level in his absence, but the cult Atleti hero still pulled all the strings to land his second Europa League crown with the club.

A fine way to round-off a stellar campaign, in which they could pip city rivals Madrid to second domestically.

What next for the 48-year-old? He has a contract at the Wanda Metropolitano club until 2020 but is still continually linked to a host of clubs, with Premier League duo Arsenal and Chelsea in the mix to land the Red and White icon.

Simeone, like Griezmann in a way, has earned all the respect and has the power to weigh up his future options but this man is the heart and soul of Atletico. Expect him to stay and build again.

LYON, FRANCE - MAY 16: Diego Simeone, Coach of Atletico Madrid celebrates his team's victory in the UEFA Europa League Final between Olympique de Marseille and Club Atletico de Madrid at Stade de Lyon on May 16, 2018 in Lyon, France. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

Yet another title: Diego Simeone.

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Watch: Sporting Lisbon players and staff attacked by intruders at training ground

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Sporting Lisbon have condemned reported acts of violence towards some of their players by a group of fans at the club’s training ground on Tuesday.

The Portuguese Primeira Liga club finished the season third after a 2-1 defeat at Maritimo on Sunday and just missed out on a place in next season’s Champions League.

The players were preparing for Sunday’s Portuguese Cup final, where they take on Alves, when the alleged attacks took place.

A statement on the club’s official website read: “Sporting Clube de Portugal vehemently condemned the events registered today at the Sporting Academy.

“We can not in any way agree with acts of vandalism and aggression to athletes, coaches and staff of professional football, nor with attitudes that configure the practice of crime that in no way honour and ennoble Sporting Clube de Portugal.

“Sporting is not this, Sporting can not be this.

“We will make every effort to establish full responsibility for what has happened and we will not fail to demand the punishment of those who acted in this absolutely pitiful way.”

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Watch: Can Antoine Griezmann break his final hoodoo in what could be his penultimate game for Atletico?

Alex Broun 16/05/2018
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Griezmann wants to wipe away memories of 2016 with a win in the final of the Europa League

With rumours of an impending move to Barcelona continuing to swirl around Antoine Griezmann, the Atletico Madrid  and France striker has even more motivation for Wednesday night’s Europa League final against Marseille.

After finals heartbreak in 2016, losing to Real Madrid in the Champions League final and then Portugal in the European Championship final, Griezmann wants to go out on a high if (as it seems) this will be his last week as an Atletico player.

The Los Rojiblancos are heavily favoured to win their third Europa League crown, following on from 2010 and 2012, but will it be third time unlikely for Griezmann?

Watch the video below.

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