In a 2-0 friendly triumph against Vissel Kobe in Tokyo on Tuesday, Mexico international Julian Araujo made his long-awaited Barcelona debut, while Andres Iniesta played his farewell game for the Japanese side.
Araujo, 21, joined Barcelona from LA Galaxy earlier this year for a cost that rose to €4 million, although he has yet to play competitively since the transfer missed the January registration deadline by 18 seconds.
After four months of training with the first team, he was able to make his debut for Barcelona in the Japan National Stadium, where Franck Kessie and Eric Garcia scored first-half goals to defeat Vissel Kobe.
Araujo, who has previously represented the United States and has six Mexico caps, played the first half at right-back and the second half on the left side of defence.
According to ESPN, Barcelona intends to keep Araujo with the first team for their preseason tour of the United States before deciding how his growth would be best served next season.
Barcelona coach Xavi Hernandez also gave debuts to many young players in the friendly, which came less than 48 hours after the LaLiga champions were defeated 2-1 by Celta Vigo.
Pau Prim and Dani Rodriguez started, while Marc Giui, Hector Fort, and Unai Hernandez came off the bench in the second half.
Both Barcelona goals were scored by the outstanding Pablo Torre, who created the opening for Kessie in the 16th minute with a stunning defense-splitting ball before Garcia headed in Torre’s corner three minutes later.
Vissel Kobe had opportunities to get back into the game but were stopped by Inaki Pena in the Barca goal, who made a superb save from Lincoln before making a double save from Koya Yuruki.
The encounter was the second time ex-Barcelona midfielder Andres Iniesta has played his previous club since departing the Spotify Camp Nou in 2018 – 22 years after entering the junior programme as a 12-year-old.
Before the game, the midfielder reconnected with old colleague Xavi and bid farewell to Vissel Kobe after announcing in May that he would quit the club, ending his five-year stint in Japan.
Iniesta, 39, was dropped from the club this season but insists he is still capable of playing regular football. According to ESPN, he has had attention from Major League Soccer, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Dubai and is open to evaluating offers.