Javier Mascherano had a humble beginning at Barcelona, having arrived from Liverpool in 2010, at a time when club legends – a brilliant midfield trio of Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Sergio Busquets were at their prime.
Mascherano, now 33, made his Barcelona debut in a shock 2-0 defeat against Hercules at Camp Nou in September 2010.
Image: Javier Mascherano and Arjen Robben
Despite his poor showing in the first half, an eventual substitution at the interval and criticisms on the wisdom behind his purchase from the Premier League side, it turned out that Spanish coach Pep Guardiola had great ideas on how to harness the player’s skills.
In barely 7 years from Mascherano’s trophy-laden career at Camp Nou, one can now understand why Pep is rated as one of the world’s best coaches. The coach has a touch of gold and literally turns greenhorns into legends.
When Mascherano joined the Catalan club, it was widely reported that Barca had no need for defenders because there was quality in every position.
It later surfaced in the media that the Argentine’s signing was orchestrated by his compatriot, Lionel Messi, who personally consulted Pep and the Barca board to the possibility of signing his international team-mate.
“During the World Cup in 2010, Barcelona needed to replace Yaya Toure and I told Leo that I’d love to be considered,” Mascherano said of his journey to Barca’s first eleven.
“He talked to Guardiola who said: ‘But Mascherano won’t get a game if he comes here! ‘How can I put Argentina’s captain on the bench?’
“But I told Leo to tell Pep that I wasn’t the kind of player who causes problems. I remember being called to his office in the Ciudad Deportiva soon after I signed.”
Pep was later quoted as saying in 2012, “I wouldn’t ever sell him…He’s a unique signing and we are very happy to have him.”
Luis Enrique said at the Mascherano’s unveiling as captain in 2014: “He [Mascherano] is like Xavi. He is very important, also because of his personality on and off the pitch. He is clear example of what a captain can be.”
Nicknamed “The Little Chief,” Masche signed for Liverpool way back in 2007 and arrived at Camp Nou in August 2010 for a fee of €24 million. He is known for his leadership skills, passing accuracy, tough marking and hard-tackling style of play.
Argentina was able to reach the finals of 2014 World Cup thanks to Mascherano’s goal-saving sliding tackle on Arjen Robben despite tearing his anus in that attempt. His team proceeded from the semi-final after a penalty shootout favored the South Americans through goalkeeper Sergio Romero, who saved kicks from Ron Vlaar and Wesley Sneijder.