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Barcelona have found an unlikely saviour in Ronald Araujo

Alexandre Patanian



Photo via Imago

Barcelona usually are a lucky team. They get the benefit of the doubt in nearly every game and Lionel Messi saved them many times in the past few years. This year, the Catalans have had just the one problem with COVID-19; that too the already injured Sergi Roberto.

However, the only aspect of football where the Catalans are not lucky is with their players’ injuries. David Villa, Ousmane Dembélé, and even Lionel Messi suffered some horrific injuries in the past few seasons. This season, the Catalans had a lot of bad luck with injuries.

For example, the Blaugrana defence has gone through many changes. Even Barcelona B players like Oscar Mingueza got a chance to deputise in defence.

Sometimes, some players’ setbacks are a blessing in disguise for others. As mentioned, Mingueza was handed a chance this season. Last year, it was Ansu Fati’s turn to fill in for injured players when Dembélé, Luis Suarez, and Messi were all on the sidelines. The teenager has become a stalwart in the giants’ side, even winning the 2020 Web Golden Boy award.

Apart from those two names, another La Masia youngster got a once in a lifetime opportunity thanks to injuries. Ronald Araujo, who enjoyed a breakthrough in 2020, is having the season of his life at Barcelona.

After Gerard Piqué’s lengthy injury accompanied by Clément Lenglet’s dip in form, the fans wanted another centre-back pairing to rely on. Well, they asked, and they received. Two youngsters, Araujo and Mingueza, stepped up to the occasion and have looked a lot more stable than Pique and Lenglet.

Araujo can bully attackers left, right, and centre. (Photo by JOSEP LAGO/AFP via Getty Images)

Since his return from injury, the Uruguayan central defender has been the player the team has relied on. His ability, going along with his ‘never give up’ mentality has made him a solution Barcelona can always look towards.

Araujo has become the defence’s technical leader. The 21-year-old is quicker than Piqué and Lenglet and oozes confidence. For Barça, he is the perfect defender because he can use his feet as well as his head.

In the past few years, the Catalans missed a rapid, commanding centre-back to shore up the defence when things go south. Granted, Araujo has not yet surpassed the legend that is Piqué, but he has shown that, shortly, he will become the most important defender in the Blaugrana squad. Right now, Araujo looks like an undisputed starter.

At home to Real Sociedad, Araujo showed that he could play under pressure by bullying the attackers. In fact, the young star has been imposing muscle in nearly every game he has featured in.

Going against the likes of Iago Aspas, Alvaro Morata or Luuk de Jong, Araujo has shown that he can scare some strong opposition. At home to Valencia, the Uruguayan international cemented his place as a starter at Koeman’s Barcelona.

His goal, a striker’s finish, was a joy to watch. He connected with a deflected cross from his partner in defence and did the unthinkable. Araujo pulled off an unbelievable scissor kick from out of nowhere to score his first goal for his beloved club. However, his game should not be summarised with his wonder strike only.

A finish prime-Luis Suarez will be proud of. (Photo by Eric Alonso/Getty Images)

He won six out of seven duels, being one of the most reassuring figures in the lineup. Nonetheless, Araujo is not only a cool defender who can win headers and duels, but he also is one of the most motivated players in the squad.

When Araujo, and Mingueza in that case, face some adversity, they directly scare off the player going against them. Besides, the newbie’s pace is refreshing and helped him become one of the main men at Camp Nou.

Still, it does no harm to keep your feet on the ground. Indeed, Araujo is promising, and undisputable considering the circumstances. However, he still has not played enough, and it seems like he gets a knock every other game.

In October, when he had an excellent showing in the first half against Juventus, Araujo went down with an injury. Against Valencia, it looked like the La Masia graduate had suffered another one while acrobatically blocking Jose Gaya’s shot. Ultimately, the defender got over it, but it still feels like the 26-time La Liga champions will not be able to depend on him, much like Dembélé.

He has played five games in the league this year because of his injury, which helped Mingueza in getting more game-time. While Araujo has become somewhat undroppable, perhaps he will not be able to show he is indispensable.

Culés will have to see what the future holds and Araujo must be one of their highest priorities to go back on top of Europe. Until then, Araujo must start to gain experience and sharpness in one of the most challenging jobs in the world.

As a Lebanese teenager who never had the chance to support their local team, I fell in love with the club that was FC Barcelona at the start of the decade. I always was passionate about writing and this is exactly what I am looking for: sharing my insights and opinions on football.



3 Players Barcelona can sell to ease their financial burden

Aaryan Parasnis



Photos via Getty

A debt of €1.173 billion, more than €700 million of which is short term, has sent FC Barcelona down a rabbit hole. The club’s gross mismanagement on both sporting as well as financial levels is no longer a secret. The former board of directors, led by president Josep Maria Bartomeu has consistently spent inordinate amounts of money on ludicrous signings. Most of which have come to bite the club back.

Now, they find themselves in a stickier situation than ever, with an astronomically high wage bill and multiple liabilities to clubs across Europe for signings. In addition, Lionel Messi’s future at Barcelona hangs in the balance. If the club are to conduct any business whatsoever, it will have to begin by offloading a few players.

After Ronald Koeman arrived at the club following the disastrous end to the 2019-20 season, a few key names have already been sold. As the initiation of a rebuilding process, Luis Suarez, Arturo Vidal, Nelson Semedo, and Ivan Rakitic were all sold. However, these departures have hardly put a dent in Barcelona’s debt.

That being said, Barça Universal takes a look at three potential sales that might help the club with their finances. Players who may not be key parts of the sporting project long term and whose departures will allow for some breathing room in the wage structure, and allow Barcelona to sign a huge talent such as Kylian Mbappe or Erling Haaland.

Samuel Umtiti

Big Sam no longer has what it takes to succeed at Barcelona. (Photo via Getty)

It would be a rather disappointing conclusion to what was potentially a wonderful signing. Samuel Umtiti, after signing for Barcelona, was rapidly rising up the ranks as one of the world’s best centre-backs. After his move from Lyon in 2016, he was flying high and quickly displayed why he staked a claim into the Blaugrana’s starting lineup.

But the Frenchman’s fairytale would come to an abrupt halt. After a fantastic second season with Barcelona, Umtiti suffered an injury to his left knee in 2018, just a month before the 2018 World Cup in Russia. The defender risked himself to represent his nation, and it ended up being a positive decision as France lifted the coveted prize with Umtiti as one of the key players. He decided not to have surgery as he felt it would worsen his issues.

Ever since then, despite his initial impressions, the injury woes have persisted and have led to many complications. Recurring issues with his meniscus, followed by foot injuries and many other issues, led to a massive decline in form and physicality. The centre-back was never really able to return to his brilliant best. While coach Ronald Koeman does favour the Frenchman, he is definitely not a consistently reliable presence at the back anymore.

Umtiti’s current deal with Barcelona expires in 2023, and given that he is 27 years old may work in favour of the club. He is not too old, and while he is injury-free, he could fetch Barcelona at least some money. The World Cup winner at his best is a fine player, but given the current circumstances, Barcelona can no longer afford to leave things up to chance.

Philippe Coutinho

Coutinho has not been on the same wavelength with his teammates for months. (Photo via Getty)

Philippe Coutinho came to Spain with tremendous promise for the fans, backed up by a huge smile on his face. He was genuinely happy to be where he was. His dream of playing for Barcelona was finally a reality. But that optimism sadly did not last far too long.

The midfielder slowed down tremendously in his first full season with the Catalans. He looked out of sorts and lost in strange and unfamiliar systems. When he arrived in January of 2018 from Liverpool, he became Barcelona’s most expensive signing of all time for over €140 million. After two bad seasons and a loan spell at Bayern Munich, he was finally beginning to show small signs of promise under Ronald Koeman this term.

However, the Brazilian has also been sidelined due to a lengthy injury this season, which has extended into worse news. In addition to that, Liverpool are reportedly one of the clubs that Barcelona still owe money to in variables for Coutinho’s transfer. They will be keen on avoiding any more liabilities. And since Coutinho has obviously not come anywhere close to providing a return on Barcelona’s investment in him, his time at the club may be up.

He is also one of the highest earners in the squad, therefore selling him might be imperative.

Sergi Roberto

The Remontada hero has been one of the constant under-performers for Barcelona. (Photo via Imago)

The midfielder turned right-back has been a polarising figure in the Barcelona fans’ eyes for quite some time now. The 29-year-old’s current contract with Barcelona is set to run out next year and has a release clause of a massive €500 million. Roberto has made some amazing memories with the club, most prominently, his iconic goal against PSG in 2017’s famous ‘Remontada’.

However, since then he has been more or less showing that he is mostly just a utility player. The Spaniard has been unremarkable in a fair few games and has often made rather costly errors. Over time however, he had certainly become one of the heavyweights in the dressing room, which obviously reflects in his salary. This season, he has been struggling with a thigh injury, which he recovered from but then relapsed.

He was a valuable asset to have in the absence of a full fledged right-back who has the so-called ‘Barcelona DNA’. However, with the arrival of Sergino Dest, parting ways with Roberto makes sense from both sporting and financial perspectives.

While Roberto might not be among the players who have constantly underperformed but selling him might be a logical decision for Barcelona because as a player who can play in multiple positions across the pitch, and is in his theoretical prime, the Spaniard will be in demand. Football today requires for players to adapt in various positions and roles, and we have seen Roberto’s capability with the same.

Additionally, as one of the captains of the team, the La Masia graduate might be able to lease off a more than decent amount of cash. Several top teams in the market, including Juventus, Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, and PSG, among others, might be vouching for a right-back soon and could look towards Sergi Roberto.

However, there are also more players like Jordi Alba, Junior Firpo and Neto who could be smart sales. Alba has also been declining rapidly but his offensive output has not yet been replaced. Firpo is already linked to a move away to various clubs after failing to impress at Barcelona. In a nutshell, the Blaugrana certainly have options to sell, in order to continue the rebuild effectively. Easing the financial load by selling and eventually making way for more sensible transfers will be vital for this transitioning side.

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