Ronald Araújo is following in Carles Puyol’s footsteps by becoming FC Barcelona’s defensive warrior and leader

When Ronald Araújo was promoted to become one of the four club captains at FC Barcelona during the summer, the Uruguayan centre-back embraced the assignment. He has been one of the most committed and impactful players for Los Blaugrana to start 2023/24, and his never-give-up attitude propelled him forward in stoppage time during Saturday’s visit to Real Sociedad to head in an İlkay Gündoğan cross for the 1-0 victory.

Ever since he made his debut with the FC Barcelona first team, the defender has played the beautiful game with an unrivalled passion. Perhaps in his debut, a 4-0 win against Sevilla FC in October 2019, he played with a little too much passion, picking up a red card late on in that game, but Araújo now plays with the experience and maturity of a footballer far older than his 24 years, channelling his energy in the right way.

Saturday night’s trip to Real Sociedad was the perfect illustration of this. Having lost ELCLASICO in the final moments the previous matchday, Barça travelled to the Basque Country determined to get back on track, but they came up against an excellent Real Sociedad side. If it hadn’t been for Araújo’s solid defensive performance, in which he made six clearances and won five of six aerial duels, La Real could very well have gone ahead. Then, with the scores level, Araújo showed the world that he is a force of nature on the football pitch, making his impact felt at the opposite end.

Speaking after the victory, Araújo told FC Barcelona’s official media channels that: “I’m truly happy with the victory. It was important to win after losing ELCLASICO. We knew it was going to be a very difficult match against Real Sociedad, who are a great team, a team in the Champions League and who play very well. We didn’t play well in the first half, but in the second half we came out with a different spirit. There are games where maybe you don’t play so well, but you still have to pull it off. The win is important for the team and I’m happy.”

Over the years, Araújo has put his words into action. When he says that there are some matches where you need to find a way even without playing well, he is the first to raise his hand and provide a solution. Saturday’s goal wasn’t the first time in the centre-back’s career where he scored a decisive stoppage time goal for Barça, having also earned a 1-1 draw after the 90th minute in a game against Granada CF in 2021/22. Of his eight goals so far for FC Barcelona, five of them have been to equalise or give his side the lead.

Moreover, five of his eight goals have been headers, proving what a threat he is in the air. There are few players in world football who command the sky quite like the Uruguayan, thanks to his athleticism and his bravery – bravery in the sense of putting his body on the line and in the sense of taking footballing risks.

For Xavi, Araújo’s leadership is also a key component of what makes him so special. As the coach has explained in a press conference: “His habit of celebrating defensive actions is welcome. It’s a sight to behold, how he trains and encourages other players.”

For many FC Barcelona fans, the closest comparison is former captain Carles Puyol, who also combined defensive excellence, composure on the ball, aerial dominance and leadership. To be mentioned in the same breath as a legend like Puyol is saying something, but Araújo is on the right track. It was at this same age that Puyol was first named as one of the club captains, while the Catalan had only made 13 more first-team appearances than Araújo had at the age of 24 years and eight months.

It’s also clear that Puyol is enjoying watching his heir in action. After Saturday’s victory, Araújo shared a post on Instagram and one of the first to comment on it was the club legend himself, applauding the performance. Puyol and all Barça fans are aware that they have a generational talent in Ronald Araújo.

MG Team

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