From a fill in for Gerard Pique and Clement Lenglet to becoming a staple, and a crucial one at that in the Barcelona starting XI, Ronald Araujo is enjoying a dream breakout season. Araujo made his debut not before last season, but his rise since has been meteoric.
So much so, that his handful of appearances last season were deemed enough for him to be rewarded with a first-team number this season. That decision has been more than ideal, as the Uruguayan continues to exceed expectations with every passing game.
In an interview with EFE, Ronald Araujo explains how this season has been for him and what more we can expect.
On marking Lionel Messi: “It’s complicated, but it’s nice to mark him in training. Before some games I think: ‘If I mark Leo in training, nothing in the game will be more difficult’ (laughs).”
On Gerard Pique: “I admire Piqué a lot, especially the way he releases the ball and his control of it which is what I lack. Also, the experience he has. He might not be very fast, but he’s always there. He’s very well positioned and he wins many aerial duels because of how well he jumps.”
On his growth at Barcelona: “Since I arrived at the club, I’ve had to work hard on releasing the ball. It’s not that it costs me, but I came from Uruguay with a different style of football. And since I signed for Barcelona, it’s something that I’ve always kept working on.”
On his mistake against Eibar: “After that mistake against Eibar, I worked even more on controlling faster. We play every three days and you can’t make mistakes. In the following games I think I showed that the mistake didn’t affect me a lot.”
On an obsession to improve: “I consider myself a player who likes to work a lot. I analyze all my games, all my rivals and especially the things that don’t go so well. And, if I have to stay for a while after training, I stay because I believe that improving is a must.”
“I have to work hard at Barça so that I can have more opportunities. The character thing is something that I have had when I was little. Imposing, helping the team. I like talking on the pitch, I am talking the whole game. It is a way of being more focused, and that I think helps me and also the team.”
On a possible contract extension: “I have a contract until 2023 and I don’t know anything about the renewal. My agent is in charge of that, and I am focused on the games, we have to play one game every three days.”
On his feelings about the national team: “I feel very happy, because for me going with the national team was a very nice dream. Now, I dream of competing in the next World Cup, and I would also like to play in the Copa América next year.”
On title opportunities this year: “We are Barça; it cannot be said that we cannot fight for any title. We have a team for that, we are prepared, we are alive in all competitions and we are going to fight for everything.”
On the discomfort during the warm-up before the Granada clash: “I feel good and ready to play.”
Report: Arsenal target wishes to join Barcelona in the summer
According to a report published by ESPN, Houssem Aouar is ready to see off interest from Arsenal in the hope that one of Barcelona or Real Madrid will come calling for his services in the summer transfer window.
Aouar has been linked to Arsenal for over a year now, with the London outfit in dire need of a creative force in their midfield. The board, led by owners KSE, decided to splash out cash for Thomas Partey in the summer instead of going all-out for a more attack-minded midfielder, namely Aouar, who was available for the same amount.
Several underlying problems of the team have come to the forefront this season, with the likes of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Nicolas Pepe underperforming. Consequently, 20-year-old Emil Smith Rowe, and 19-year-old Bukayo Saka have been sharing the burden of imagination in the team.
The decision not to pursue Aouar may have come back to bite them, though. Lyon are not ready to sell their most prized possession in the winter, especially given their position in the Ligue 1 table. The French outfit are just two points off the first-spot, and serious contenders for the title.
Additionally, Aouar, too, is ready to waive off interest from Arsenal in the hope of joining one of Real Madrid in the summer and his decision in June will ultimately depend on either club’s interest in for his signature. Barcelona have not been linked with a move for the 22-year-old but were in for a move for his partner in crime, Memphis Depay. Even that transfer seems to have fallen through now, after Ronald Koeman’s meeting with the presidential candidates.
Aouar has scored three goals and set up an additional three for his teammates in the league this season and remains one of the best midfielders in the French league. However, for all his quality, a spot in Barcelona’s midfield may be tough to come by, though, given the meteoric rise of Pedri, and the promise shown by the likes of Riqui Puig and Ilaix Moriba. Their arch-rivals, Madrid, however, may have a spot opening soon enough, with Luka Modric on the last juncture of his career.