TRANSFER TRACKER STATUS: Transfer
LA Galaxy and Mexico national team right back Julián Araujo has secured his long-desired move to Europe after all, earning a club-record transfer to LaLiga giants FC Barcelona on Friday – over two weeks past the January window closing.
Paperwork was initially filed 18 seconds late on Jan. 31 due to a supposed computer error, then FC Barcelona's appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) was denied. But the club and player stuck at it, resulting in the 21-year-old completing his reported $4 million transfer to Spain's top division. The Galaxy will retain a sell-on percentage of the transfer fee if Araujo is sold to another club.
Araujo, who was linked to FC Barcelona last summer, will reportedly train with Barça B – under El Tri legend and former New York Red Bulls star Rafa Márquez – before being officially registered for the first team's 2023-24 campaign. Los Blaugrana are expected to compete in the UEFA Champions League next year, sitting first in the LaLiga table above Real Madrid.
FC Barcelona, led by manager Xavi Hernandez, have often played Jules Kounde (out of position) at right back this season. The club also has US international Sergiño Dest loaned out to Serie A powerhouse club AC Milan.
"Julián joining FC Barcelona is a great story of a young kid from Southern California coming into the LA Galaxy Academy, through LA Galaxy II and excelling with the first team,” said LA Galaxy head coach and sporting director Greg Vanney.
"As we continue to evolve as a club, we’re leaning heavily into the LA Galaxy Academy development side. We are going to help develop players who can play at the biggest clubs in the world, but can also help the LA Galaxy win championships. We wish Julián all the best in the next phase of his career."
A two-time MLS All-Star (2021-22), Araujo quickly established himself as one of the league's most promising talents upon making his professional debut with the Galaxy as a 17-year-old in 2019. He departs with one goal and 20 assists in 100 regular-season games for LA.
Eligible to represent both the United States and Mexico, his performances caught the eye of then-US coach Gregg Berhalter, who called up Araujo for a training camp before handing him his first senior appearance in a December 2020 friendly against El Salvador. However, the youngster eventually switched allegiances to El Tri, earning three senior caps under former manager Tata Martino, who ultimately left Araujo off Mexico's roster for the FIFA 2022 World Cup.
LA have now done business with Barça in back-to-back transfer windows, acquiring midfielder Riqui Puig last summer on a free move. Araujo's exit also continues MLS-developed fullbacks heading to high-profile European clubs, following Bryan Reynolds (2021 from FC Dallas to Italy's AS Roma) and Alistair Johnston (2022 from CF Montréal to Scotland's Celtic FC), as two examples.
What's next for LA?
Veteran Uruguayan defender Martín Cáceres, himself a former Barça player, may fill the Galaxy's unexpected void at right back – as could Suriname international Kelvin Leerdam. To date, LA have been relatively quiet in terms of offseason signings, only bringing in two free-agent MLS veterans: center back Chris Mavinga and midfielder Memo Rodríguez.
The club's front office, which can't sign players from abroad this summer due to sanctions resulting from the 2019 season, has been far more active in shedding its roster, with 10 squad members from 2022 leaving the club. Araujo is the most high-profile of these winter exits, followed by forward Kévin Cabral, who was traded to the Colorado Rapids in a move that freed up a Designated Player spot for the Galaxy.
On Feb. 25, the Galaxy begin their 2023 MLS season against El Trafico rivals LAFC at the Rose Bowl (9:30 pm ET | MLS Season Pass).
READ MORE: MLS Transfer Tracker presented by Avant