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Galaxy make transfer deal for Barcelona star midfielder Riqui Puig

Barcelona's Riqui Puig, left, fights for the ball with Getafe's Djene Dakonam

Barcelona’s Riqui Puig, left, fights for the ball with Getafe’s Djene Dakonam on May 15. The Galaxy have completed a deal with Barcelona to acquire Puig. (Manu Fernandez/Associated Press)

The Galaxy, a team in need of a savior, have acquired one Thursday when it completed a deal for Barcelona midfielder Riqui Puig.

Puig, who will turn 23 next week, is one of the brightest stars to come out of Barcelona’s famous La Masia academy in recent years. He appeared in just 42 La Liga games, however, for the first team since 2018, scoring twice.

Nevertheless, landing a young, dynamic player from a major European club is a coup for MLS and the Galaxy didn’t have to break the bank to make that happen.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Puig is reportedly coming on a free transfer and is signed for 3½ years. The Galaxy funded the acquisition with targeted allocation money (TAM) and Barcelona retains the rights to reacquire the player at any time. The club will also get half the earnings should the Galaxy sell the player.

Puig, who is not in Los Angeles, will need to complete his transfer certificate and immigration paperwork before he is able to train or play for the Galaxy. It is uncertain how long that process will take.

To clear space under the MLS salary cap and to open an international roster spot for Puig, the Galaxy shipped midfielder Ryan Raveloson to Auxerre in France’s Ligue 1, saving $855,000 in TAM. The Galaxy acquired Raveloson on a free transfer from French club Troyes last season but are getting a $1.78-million transfer fee for sending him back, according to the Athletic’s Paul Tenorio. The Galaxy did not dispute that report.

The moves come as the Galaxy (9-10-3) are heading in reverse as they begin their final drive for a playoff berth. The team has lost four of its last five games and goes into Saturday’s game in Kansas City two points and two places below the MLS playoff line with 12 games to play. The team has made the postseason just once since 2016.

Puig fills a gaping hole in the center of a midfield that has produced little for the Galaxy this season. A forceful attacker and exquisite dribbler, Puig has won comparisons to Barcelona legend Andrés Iniesta, another La Masia product.

The Galaxy went into the season hoping that Brazilian Douglas Costa could fill a play-making role, but injuries have caused him to miss more minutes than he has played, limiting him to two goals and an assist. Wingers Kévin Cabral and Samuel Grandsir have combined for just two goals.

Puig made 18 appearances in all competitions last season, Barcelona’s first under manager Xavier Hernández, but he did not figure in the team’s plans for this season. And the Spanish giant, under enormous financial pressure, chose to move him with another 10 months left on his contract, which reportedly paid him just over $4 million a year.

According to the transfermarkt website, Puig had a market value of $27.5 million when he signed his last contract with Barcelona in 2020. That figure has dropped to $7.7 million.

Puig is the second addition the Galaxy has made to their midfield in the last month, following Uruguayan midfielder Gaston Brugman.

This story originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.