Antoine Griezmann was “determined” to land his first major trophy with Atletico Madrid as his brace led to Europa League glory against Marseille.
The 27-year-old France international has been heavily linked with a move away from the Wanda Metropolitano this summer and showed his class as Atleti ran out comfortable 3-0 winners in Lyon.
Griezmann struck in either half as Madrid captain Gabi rounded off victory with a late effort.
As he now looks towards World Cup success with France, Griezmann was pleased to lift a trophy under Atleti boss Diego Simeone.
“I left home when I was 14 wanting to win titles,” he said after the match.
“I was determined to take the opportunity to win one tonight. I didn’t want to miss out. I tip my hat off to Marseille, they have a lot to be proud of.
“It was a dream of mine to win a title under Simeone and I told myself that this was my time.
“I’ve been with Atleti for four years and now I have a strong bond – with my team-mates, with my fans. That’s why I give my all.”
Whether his stay in Madrid extends beyond four years remains to be seen as Simeone, who was forced to watch from the stands as he served the second game of a four-match touchline ban, said the club would still improve if they were to lose their talisman.
“Antoine – if he stays we’ll continue to grow and develop,” the Argentinian said.
“If he goes then great, he’s given a lot to us over the years. Even without him we’ll continue to grow.”
Meanwhile, Marseille boss Rudi Garcia defended his decision to play Payet from the start despite admitting his captain was unsure about his fitness.
“I chose to start Dimitri, one of our best players,” he told reporters after the game.
“Even diminished, he set up the (Valere) Germain chance. We also missed him from set-pieces as Atletico, if they do ever concede, sometimes concede from set-pieces.
“We hoped that he’d be at 100 per cent and we gave him a fitness test this morning.
“He was worried about playing and whether he’d be able to kick the ball hard. He didn’t aggravate the injury today, he just wasn’t fully fit. In matches like this you have to take risks.”
Payet had rolled the ball through to Valere Germain in the opening five minutes only for the midfielder to fire wide.
That paved the way for Griezmann to take centre stage, Marseille failing to truly threaten again until the latter stages when substitute Konstantinos Mitroglou hit the post with a header.
“We missed our chance in the first half,” Garcia added.
“We had the best chance first up and then we made a mistake that cost us a goal. Against a team like Atletico you cannot afford to fall behind as it becomes difficult.”
Source: Evening Times UK