A few months ago, Luiz Araujo was celebrating Lille’s shock title-winning season after the French club upset Paris Saint-Germain's expected march to the Ligue 1 trophy. And just a few weeks ago, he was preparing to improbably defend that title – though he was ready for a new challenge.
Then Atlanta United called, presenting him with a fresh journey.
Araujo and the MLS outfit first came in contact only a few days before the Secondary Transfer Window deadline, which closed last Thursday night. All parties were able to reach an agreement that saw Araujo join Atlanta for a fee of around $12 million.
“The main thing for me, I really like to win titles,” Araujo told media through a translator on Tuesday. “That’s the main reason I’m here, I’d like to win the league. It’s something I’ve trained for my whole life and I’m looking forward to doing that here. I want to show MLS who Luiz Araujo is.”
Atlanta reached great heights during their first few seasons, lifting MLS Cup in 2018 and then winning the US Open Cup and Campeones Cup in 2019. Since, though, their ambition hasn't been met. They've cycled through two coaches in as many years, with Frank de Boer let go in 2020 as the club fell short of the playoff line, then Gabriel Heinze lasted just 13 matches this year. They currently sit six points adrift the Eastern Conference's final playoff spot but hope things are turning in the right direction.
The Araujo deal came together pretty quickly, as Atlanta were intent on adding a dynamic attacking piece. They were linked with Argentine wunderkind Thiago Almada for a deal worth $15 million but didn’t get it over the line; various reports suggest the attacker will join from Velez Sarsfield in the winter. They had been linked with a number of other expensive attacking options as well before Araujo’s transfer came together.
“It was all about timing,” Bocanegra said. “We’ve known about Luiz for a while, he’d been on our radar. The timing worked out with him being available.”
“I don’t think it was anywhere near as wild or drama-filled, we weren’t concerned about it getting over the deadline,” Bocanegra added. “ … It was maybe a little bit overdramatized.”
How Araujo will fit in Atlanta
Araujo is best suited to play as a right-winger who cuts in on his preferred left foot, though he can slot on either wing or underneath the striker. Direct and pacey were two words Bocanegra used to describe him.
“It’s the type of player we like to bring in here,” Bocanegra said. “The great part is his work ethic. I was able to speak with his former coach at Lille about his work ethic, how he fit in the locker room with the team. Those are invaluable, which are great characteristics to add to our club. We see him as another piece who can unlock a defense.”
Araujo made 136 appearances at Lille over four years with the club, reaching a crescendo with last year's Ligue 1 title. He started half the games and appeared in almost all of them as they beat heavily-favored PSG to the title. He originally signed from Sao Paulo in 2017.
The 25-year-old Brazilian winger will join first-team training on Wednesday and hopes to debut Sunday against LAFC. Araujo said he’s physically fit, as he was in preseason with Lille, who kicked off their league campaign last weekend. It just depends when his P-1 visa arrives, something Bocanegra said may not be resolved until close to game time.
“I’m very happy to be here, I’m very motivated for this new challenge,” Araujo said. “I’m here because I was presented a great project. I think I made a great choice.”