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Ronald Araujo talks Messi, Suarez, Pique, Virgil van Dijk, Gavi, Puyol and playing for Barcelona: “My idols are…”

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Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images

After securing a narrow win over Celta Vigo on the weekend, Barcelona’s focus will shift to the important Champions League affair in midweek.

The Catalans are all set to take on Napoli on Wednesday in the first leg of the Round of 16 clash. It is a must-win encounter for Barcelona as they look to perform well on their return to the knockout stages of the Champions League.

Heading into this game, Barcelona star Ronald Araujo highlighted the importance of the clash and the club’s expectations in the UCL this season.

“The Champions League is the tournament that everyone wants to play. We want to win it, and this match against Napoli is important,” Araujo said (h/t Lays). “The match against Napoli is a big motivation for us, regardless of how things are going.”

“It feels wonderful when the Champions League anthem starts playing. It has a great impact. You feel like you have to go stronger, with more energy and desire. It’s incredible to play in a competition like that. Everyone dreams of playing it and winning it,” the defender added.

“Usually I do the same routine every match. Of course, I realize the importance of playing these matches in the Champions League, and what it represents, but I deal with it normally,” the defender further added.

Araujo went on to express his delight in playing for Barcelona. The defender added that he had offers to play for other La Liga clubs.

“In my life, I never imagined that I would play for a club like Barcelona,” he said. “A few years ago my agent told me I was going to sign for a European club, but he didn’t tell me which one.”

Araujo is proud to play for Barcelona (Photo by Yasser Bakhsh/Getty Images)

“I arrived in Madrid and spent the night in a hotel, not knowing who I was signing for. The next day they tell me, ‘come to Barcelona.’ Then I go: ‘Wow! Barça?” he added.

On what its like to play for Barça, the defender said, “When you arrive in the Barcelona training room, you see all the stars, the same ones you used to play with on the video games. It’s a little confusing, but the truth is that they received me really well.”

“Barcelona is a special club and there is a great influence around it. I think we have to be aware of where we are and the club we represent. The pressure is normal. I think players should accept constructive criticism,” he further added.

Talking about interest from other La Liga clubs, the Uruguayan international revealed, “I had the opportunity to join other teams in La Liga. They told me that Barça would only include me in their reserve team at first, so I had to choose. I told them: ‘I have an offer from Barça, I have to sign for Barça’.

Other than Barcelona and the Champions League, Araujo also reflected on his personal strategy before heading into every game.

The defensive star stressed the need to analyse every opponent. He also talked about Barça’s ongoing economic woes.

“I analyze our opponents, especially their forwards. I also look back on my matches. We don’t watch a lot of videos, but I review my movements and actions,” Araujo said.

“I analyze all the forwards I face. When I play as a right-back, I analyze wingers too, and the wing-back who bombs forward. I analyze everything… Whether he’s fast, how he moves, deals with spaces. As I said, I analyze everything,” he added.

As for Barcelona’s economic woes, the defender said, “The club is struggling economically. But thanks to God, the young players are providing great help. The youngsters are ready to play. They’re not afraid of anything. You bump with them in training, and they get up like nothing happened.”

Moving on, Araujo was asked about some of his teammates at Barcelona, including defensive starlet Pau Cubarsi. The youngster has made an impressive breakthrough recently, and Araujo couldn’t help but to compare him with Gerard Pique.

“Cubarsí reminds me of Piqué a lot. He has something. He’s very smart, an unbelievable talent at 17 years old. Quality technique and intelligence, are always in the right place. The club needs to take care of this talent for many years to come,” the Uruguayan said.

Speaking of Pique himself, he added, “I learned a lot from Piqué, especially the intelligence he had on the pitch. He was not fast, but he was always in the right position. Technically he always offered a solution for you.”

Araujo went on to reveal a few anecdotes about Gavi and his former teammate Ousmane Dembele. “Gavi is always on his phone. All of the young players in general, they’re always on their phone,” he said.

The Barcelona defender named Dembele as the fastest player he has ever faced. As for his defensive idols. “I have many: Puyol, Rio Ferdinand, Piqué… Currently, Van Djik,” he revealed.

Araujo was also asked one aspect of his game he would like to improve. In response, the defender said, “Concentration for the full match. If you do very well, but then lose your focus in the 89th minute, you ruin the great performance you had. I wouldn’t say I’m unfocused, but it’s hard to maintain concentration for 90 minutes.”

Finally, Araujo spoke at length about Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez, two former Barcelona superstars currently plying their trade at Inter Miami.

When asked about the best football shirt he has ever kept, Araujo said, “Leo Messi’s training shirt with Barça, and his Argentina one. Also Cristiano Ronaldo’s one too.”

Talking about Messi, he said, “I wish Leo all the best. He’s the best player in the world. He makes the difference on and off the pitch. He imposes himself. He’s a leader and he’s a reference. I miss everything about him.”

“When Suarez left, my locker was beside Leo’s in the dressing room. We used to sit every morning and drink yerba mate tea,” he added. “Leo Messi and Suarez were very important for me. They helped me a lot when I arrived in the dressing room.”

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