Eighteen seconds. A computer glitch. Some late changes to the contract.
One, or possibly all three, of those factors will keep Galaxy defender Julián Araujo in MLS after FIFA on Friday nixed a deal that would have sent him to legendary La Liga club Barcelona. Earlier this week, the Galaxy agreed to allow Araujo, 21, to leave for Barcelona, but according to ESPN, the structure of the deal underwent some late changes, which delayed the filing of the paperwork until after the transfer deadline, eventually negating the transaction.
When the documents finally were ready, Barcelona's director of football Mateu Alemany told reporters that a "system error" prevented the club from transmitting them to FIFA until 18 seconds after La Liga's January transfer window had closed Tuesday, killing the deal. Barcelona asked FIFA for the transfer to be approved anyway, citing technical issues, but the appeal was denied.
"FIFA can confirm that the transfer of the player Julián Araujo from LA Galaxy to FC Barcelona was not completed in line with the applicable regulations," a FIFA spokesperson confirmed in writing to The Times on Friday.
The next transfer window won't open until the summer, preventing Barcelona from adding Araujo, or anyone else, until then.
The Galaxy declined to comment Friday, but Thursday, as Araujo worked out away from his teammates, coach Greg Vanney said the player's future was in FIFA's hands and acknowledged a computer error had delayed filing of the paperwork.
"We're all kind of in a wait and see," he said.
Although the agreement was initially said to be a loan, Spanish website Relevo said that eventually gave way to a complicated purchase deal. Barcelona was to give the Galaxy $2.16 million in February for 50% of the rights to Araujo, then had the right to acquire another 40% by paying the same amount at an undisclosed future date. The Galaxy would keep 10% of the players' rights in the event of a future sale.
Although Araujo, a two-time MLS all-star at right back, has drawn interest from top European clubs before, Vanney said conversations with Barcelona didn't really become advanced until last weekend, one reason the talks came near the transfer deadline. Araujo, an attack-minded defender, signed a 4½-year contract extension with the Galaxy in the summer of 2021. He made $678,750 last year, according to figures provided by the MLS players' association.
Araujo is well-known to Barcelona, training at the club's academy in Spain as a teenager and later playing at its residency academy in Arizona. If the transfer had gone through, he would have been assigned to Barcelona B, the club's reserve team in the third tier of Spanish soccer. But he would also have been available to the first team, which this week lost natural right back Héctor Bellerin to Portugal's Sporting Club.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.