Star once looked into representing final rivals
My article for MARCA
Antoine Griezmann... Lopes has always represented France on the national stage, though he could have also played for Portugal, the team standing between the hosts and the Euro 2016 trophy.
Antoine's grandfather Amaro Lopes was a hulking central defender who lined out for Pacos de Ferreira before moving to France in the late '50s to find work once his career in Portugal had come to an end.
His journey took him to the city of Macon, near Lyon, where he found employment on the building sites and it was there that Antoine's mother, Isabelle, was born and where in turn, Griezmann would grow up.
The Atletico Madrid man was involved in controversy on international duty with the Under 21s almost four years ago as a group of players broke the curfew at their base in Le Havre, taking a taxi all the way to Paris for a night out on the town.
The transgressors were slapped with bans by the French federation for their troubles and during this difficult time, the young Griezmann is said to have looked into the possibility of switching his allegiance to the country of his grandfather's birth.
Thankfully for the French, the man who leads the scoring charge at the European Championship with six goals decided to take the punishment on the chin and fight his way back into the reckoning with the sort of steely determination that has typified him throughout his career.
He showed aptitude for the game at a young age but had to deal with the heartbreak of rejection by the team he supported as a child, Lyon, due to his slight physique.
Fortunately for him, he was to get a second chance in the professional game when he was spotted by Real Sociedad's French scout, Eric Olhats.
The youngster still had a long way to go, but the Basque Club provided the perfect environment for his development, and the technical nature of Spanish football suited him, not to mention the fact that San Sebastian lies close to the French border.
This meant that the young Griezmann, who didn't speak any Spanish, was able to reside on the other side of the frontier with Olhats in Bayonne, and continue his education in the French school system.
Every day he would cross to Spain after school to train before heading back home in the evening.
"It made things easier," recounts his coach at the club, Josean Rueda.
But his physique was still holding him back: initially he trained, but didn't play competitively.
"The first time I saw him play in competition, you could see that he really had something but he was still very underdeveloped," Rueda recalls.
"You see so many kids with great technique, but they never make it.
"The physical jump came in his final year as a junior, that was when the footballer we know today was born and when finally the doubts about whether he would make it passed.”
By April 2009 he was part of a promising underage team with the likes of Inigo Martinez and Ruben Pardo that won a prestigious international tournament under the tutelage of Meho Kodro, finishing top scorer as Real Sociedad beat his current club Atletico on penalties in the final.
Kodro knew he was witnessing a special talent in the making.
"Watch out for for Griezmann," Kodro said "because this kid's really got something.”
Beyond his brilliance with the ball at his feet, Rueda pays tribute to his strength of character.
"He came all the way here only speaking French at such a young age, having to go back and forth between here and Bayonne.
"But he showed he was very strong mentally, very expressive, cheerful, and he always had a smile on his face- he won us all over right from the start."
ORIGINAL ARTICLE HERE AT MARCA IN ENGLISH