Barcelona centermid-turned-centre back Javier Mascherano put all the transfer rumors to rest by agreeing to a three year extension with the reigning La Liga champions. Mascherano had told the club he was seeking the last large contract of his career and Juventus were prepared to offer him just that. Along with that, the argentinian also made it clear that he wanted to play more in his natural center mid role than centerback as he’s come accustomed to in Barcelona. With the signing of another potential starting centerback in Umiti, it appears Mascherano may get his wish.
Mascherano’s story with Barcelona has definitely been a memorable one. When he transferred from Liverpool back in 2010, he agreed to take a paycut and he came in knowing he would be the third string choice for center defensive mid after Sergio Busquets and Seydou Keita. It wasn’t until injuries from Carles Puyol and Eric Abidal made Pep Guardiola experiment different players in the backline. After Busquets didn’t seem to fit in right, Mascherano seemed the ideal emergency center back.
However, the last-resort centre back slowly became the starting centerback as both Pique and Puyol both suffered from constant injuries during the 2011-2012 season. He eventually became a starter over Puyol during the captain’s last season in 2013-2014. Many feared that Puyol’s departure would leave a gaping hole in Barcelona’s backline that could not be filled by Gerard Pique. That’s when el jefecito came in.
Mascherano came back from the 2014 World Cup looking faster, stronger and much more tactical than the previous season. His improvement along with Pique’s return to eliteness was a major key during Barcelona’s treble winning season in 2015.
Granted, Mascherano is no Carles Puyol. For me Puyol is the greatest defender I ever had the pleasure of watching. However, Mascherano was the greatest replacement for him that Barcelona could’ve ever wished for.
They share the same fire up passion and desire to put their body on the line to protect the goal. To really demonstrate what it means to die for the badge in the front of the shirt. An outspoken leader on the field quick to fire up their teammates when it’s needed the most.
Realistically speaking, Mascherano never has nor will ever be the best center back in the world. Nonetheless, his hard work and determination every time he steps onto the field is something to be grateful for. A lot of Barcelona fans have been quick to despise him in the past seasons claiming his defensive IQ is horrible and he is at fault for many goals. Though at times that may be true, it’s important to remember that he is a player who was forced to switch from the position he had played for more than 20 years and into a completely different position. In a club where you’re practically prohibited from making mistakes in fear of being replaced.
If Mascherano would’ve left this summer, I would’ve understood completely. At 32, he’s looking for one last big contract before going back to Argentina. He wants to spend his last years playing in his natural position. I get it. That’s why I’m so thankful he’s decided to stick around for a bit longer. Thankful we’ll still have Masche and his goal-saving, leg-breaking tackles in the back to help us chase titles.