Javier Mascherano will call time on his successful spell with Barcelona in January, leaving behind a big impression with the club’s fans.
“El Jefecito” (The Little Chief) has been remarkable during his time with the Catalan giants, proving his early career doubters wrong on all accounts and with his time at the Camp Nou set to end; we look back on his up and down career.
Moving across South America with Carlos Tevez
Born in San Lorenzo, Argentina; Mascherano was quickly snapped up by the country’s most infamous club, River Plate and given a chance in the first team as early as nineteen years old. His success for both club and country saw him play an important part in River’s Primera Division title in 2004 and his country’s Copa America and Olympic Games success.
Learning his trade in the Argentine league, interest quickly emerged from European sides but it was an unlikely move to Brazilian side Corinthians that emerged.
Mascherano joined team-mate Carlos Tevez in making the move across the continent to Brazil but injuries saw his time at the club falter.
Tevez, who would later follow Mascherano to England, captained the Brazilian side and together, the Argentine duo helped them win the Campeonato Brasileiro Serie A in 2005.
The following season, however, Mascherano would be involved in a relegation battle The Peoples Club, holding off interest from Europe.
West Ham troubles, escape to Liverpool
The following season, the then midfielder would make a move to England but to London based side West Ham United and not one of the Premier League’s top clubs.
Rumours cast over the move which saw Tevez also move to Upton Park, claiming that a company called Media Sports Investment were involved and used the double move to attempt a purchase of the English club.
Confirmation on who owned Mascherano and Tevez remained unknown with some claiming MSI owned the players and not West Ham, and it is not until recently that it was in fact Mystere Services and Global Soccer Agencies, who owned the Argentine.
Despite his big move, Mascherano would find more time on the bench than he would on the field, seeing the Premier League side slip to eight straight league defeats.
Further rumours spread about special clauses in the move that restricted both he and Tevez from playing and it would not be long until an escape elsewhere was driven by Mascherano and his representatives.
Liverpool came knocking and largely, have a big part to play in saving his career.
139 appearances for the Anfield based club, including a man of the match performance against AC Milan in the 2007 Champions League final saw him heavily praised by the club’s fans.
Adapting his game; moving to Barca
August 2010 and Barcelona. Much to many, Mascherano’s exit to the La Liga giants came as a surprise as the club possessed a potent midfield with the likes of Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta and youngster, Sergio Busquets.
Little did he know, Mascherano would not be played in his usual position and instead was reverted to centre-back, where he would cement his position alongside Gerard Pique for future years.
332 appearances have since followed, with a whole host of titles – which include, four league titles, four Copa del Rey honours and two Champions League titles.
Much the unsung hero at the club, Mascherano’s impact was heard and seen during the league game against Osasuna in April 2017, where after having not scored for the club, he was handed the chance to score from the spot – he obliged and the Camp Nou crowd rose to their feet.
At 33, Mascherano now looks set to leave for a lucrative pay day in China and why not?
Embroiled in early controversy during his career, the talented Argentine has converted his career and become one of the best ever central defenders in Barcelona history.
Samuel Umtiti’s rise to become Pique’s new partner at the Camp Nou has been nothing short of a delight, but lets not take anything away from Mascherano and his impact.