A young rising star in North America little known to the rest of world is set to make his way to one of the biggest clubs in Europe.
According to Sam Marsden and Moises Llorens of ESPN, Barcelona are nearing a Deadline Day move for LA Galaxy defender Julian Araujo. U.S.-based transfer expert Tom Bogert indicated the deal was done pending final paperwork and Fabrizio Romano confirmed the final fee.
The 21-year-old has been linked with Barcelona in the past, and the club has had connections to his development for some time. It now seems like he will get his move to the Catalan giants.
And for a Barcelona in desperate need of discovering an attacking right-back who can impact a match, the LA Galaxy product projects to be an optimal fit should he successfully impress in Spain.
MORE: How Transfer Deadline Day 2023 unfolded
Barcelona are closing in on deal to sign Julián Araujo! Agreement reached — understand it’s permanent deal from LA Galaxy for fee close to €4m 🚨🔵🔴 #FCB #DeadlineDay
Contract will be valid until June 2026 for Araújo with second team Barça B.
One step needed: MLS approval. pic.twitter.com/qHqkKPoUpq
— Fabrizio Romano (@FabrizioRomano) January 31, 2023
Who is Julian Araujo?
Julian Araujo was born in August, 2001 in Lompoc, California, just about three hours north of Los Angeles. His parents are Mexican immigrants to the United States, giving him dual eligibility to represent either nation at the international level.
In 2017 while attending high school, Araujo joined the Barcelona Residency Academy in Arizona, his first link to the La Liga club as a teenager. He then joined the LA Galaxy academy a year later, and made his professional debut for the senior team in March of 2019.
Araujo made 18 appearances in his debut MLS season, mostly off the bench but earning a string of starts through June and July. In the COVID-shortened 2020 season, Araujo then cemented himself as the regular starter for the Galaxy at right-back, a role which he carried over into 2021.
Through the 2021 and 2022 MLS campaigns, Araujo racked up plenty of playing time, appearing in all but three of the club’s league games across those two seasons, accumulating an incredible 5,537 minutes in MLS play out of a possible 6,120.
While Araujo was born in the United States, he chose to represent Mexico at the international level, and has earned three caps for El Tri. He was not selected to the Mexico 2022 World Cup squad, but is expected to be a major piece of the puzzle through the 2026 cycle.
How Julian Araujo fits at Barcelona
Barcelona have been looking for a natural right-back ever since Xavi decided to offload Sergino Dest and Dani Alves in the summer, loaning the American to AC Milan and seeing an aging Alves leave on a free transfer.
Currently, Xavi has rotated other players at the full-back position on the right side, with natural centre-back Jules Kounde and natural midfielder Sergi Roberto both seeing the majority of the time. Hector Bellerin, now 27, was brought over from Arsenal, but was not able to impress, and is reportedly on his way to Sporting CP in Portugal.
In Araujo, Xavi now has a young player who can carry the load of a full season and is a natural at the position. The step up from Major League Soccer to La Liga and the Champions League is significant, but Araujo’s previous training with the Barcelona academy should serve him well. And if they believe he’s capable of growing into a full-time starter for the club, it comes from extensive knowledge of the player and not some peripheral scouting.
Analytics website WhoScored lists Araujo as a very strong tackler, with a proficiency for passing, creating chances, and making interceptions. Meanwhile, they list no notable weaknesses in his game.
In the 2022 season, Araujo ranked seventh amongst MLS defenders in total tackles with 73, and of all defenders with at least 50 tackles, he had the most passes completed proving his heavy involvement both with the ball and out of possession. According to WhoScored, Araujo was the third-best right-back in MLS with at least 20 appearances, with a 6.88 overall rating.
Araujo himself has been dreaming of this move for quite a while. Back in August, he told Andrew Wiebe of the Extratime podcast that “my vision is to go to Europe. I’ve set my head on Europe. I know that to reach my highest potential is to go to Europe.
“I want to play at the top teams, the top leagues, and I’m someone that wants to learn every day and I want to continue to grow and take advice from the best players possible, from the best teams, from the best coaching staff. In order for me to reach my highest potential, I definitely think I need to go to Europe.”
Julian Araujo clubs, statistics
The 21-year-old has only played professionally for the LA Galaxy, joining the club’s youth academy in 2018 before making his senior debut in 2019.
Araujo has made 109 total appearances for the Galaxy, with 98 of those coming in league play. He has scored two goals and delivered 14 assists in his career for the club, picking up 26 yellow cards and getting sent off three times, with one of those via a straight red card.
One of his two career goals was a huge one, as it came in a 1-0 playoff win over Nashville SC in October 2022 that set the club up for a quarterfinal rivalry meeting with LAFC.
LOCALLY GROWN, GLOBALLY KNOWN 😤
JULIAN ARAUJO’S FIRST GOAL OF THE SEASON IS ELECTRIC ⚡️ pic.twitter.com/4djVbXLMuB
— LA Galaxy (@LAGalaxy) October 15, 2022
Julian Araujo chooses Mexico over USA
Julian Araujo’s international career began with controversy, as the young full-back chose to represent his country of heritage, Mexico, over his country of birth, the United States.
He represented the United States at every international level, from Under-16 all the way up through Under-23. He was called into January camp in 2020 by head coach Gregg Berhalter, but did not appear in the friendly against Costa Rica that finished off the two-week session. Araujo would earn his first and only USMNT cap in a friendly against El Salvador in December 2020, which did not cap-tie him to the nation as it was not a competitive match. He was named to the full 59-player roster for the 2021 Gold Cup, but did not make the final cut for the team.
Then, in August 2021, Araujo completed the necessary paperwork with FIFA for a one-time switch, deciding to represent Mexico at the senior international level. It was approved by FIFA in October 2021, and he made his debut for Mexico in a friendly against Chile on December 8, 2021.
Biggest transfers in MLS history, LA Galaxy history
If Barcelona make the loan deal for Araujo permanent, it would cost the club about €4 million, according to MLSsoccer’s Tom Bogert.
While that would not be enough to crack the top 10 outbound transfers in MLS history, it would be significant enough to become the LA Galaxy’s record outgoing transfer. Historically, the Galaxy have been one of MLS’s most active clubs in the transfer market, but they have not traditionally been a club to develop and transfer talent for large sums.
According to Transfermarkt, the LA Galaxy’s current record outgoing transfer is Ola Kamara, who was transferred to Chinese club Shenzhen FC for €3 million in 2019, which just ranks ahead of midfielder Juninho’s exit to Club Tijuana in 2016 for €2 million.
The Galaxy’s most recent high-value transfer is a €1.75 million deal sending Rayan Raveloson to French side AJ Auxerre this offseason, which is their third-most valuable outgoing transfer in club history.
The record MLS departure is Miguel Almiron’s $26 million sale to Newcastle United in the winter of 2019.
Is Julian Araujo related to Ronald Araujo?
While it is interesting to have two players with the same last name in the Barcelona squad, Julian Araujo and Ronald Araujo are not related.
Ronald Araujo, a 23-year-old who came through Barcelona’s youth system, is a Uruguayan international born in the city of Rivera, on the northern coast of the country, right on the border with Brazil.
Meanwhile, Julian is of Mexican descent and born in the United States.
The two could, however, now link up on the field, as Ronald Araujo has been excellent at centre-back when healthy, although he’s had trouble staying match fit of late. If Julian reaches the first-team level, the two could be in the lineup together for several years.