Former Liverpool ace Javier Mascherano has been linked with a possible return to Anfield next summer.
The 33-year-old midfielder turned centre-back looks set to be on his way from Barcelona’s Nou Camp stadium at the end of the season having fallen out of favour with new boss Ernesto Valverde. Although he has a year remaining on his existing contract, Barcelona are willing to allow him to leave on a free transfer.
Liverpool, Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain have all been mooted as possible destinations while there’s also talk of him possibly moving back to his homeland, the MLS or another Premier League club.
While at Liverpool, Mascherano was one of the best midfielders in the game. He formed part of a formidable midfield at Liverpool when deployed alongside the likes of Steven Gerrard, Xabi Alonso and Momo Sissoko. At the time former Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez described him as a “world-class holding midfielder” and “a monster”.
He didn’t leave Liverpool under great circumstances having allegedly refused to turn out for the Reds against Manchester City in August 2010. The media stated that the player had gone on strike while trying to force a move out of the club but he strongly denied the suggestion. With Liverpool having lost the game 3-0, supporters were obviously furious with the suggestion that Mascherano had refused to play.
After securing a transfer to Barcelona a week later, Mascherano, who was 26 at the time, was quoted by Sky Sports as saying: “Liverpool will always be in my heart, but my time there has finished and now it is time for a new challenge.
“I have not left Liverpool to join Barcelona for money, just for sporting reasons. The Barca project is very exciting.
“They have been interested in me in the past and this second opportunity to join them was impossible to reject.
“I will for ever be grateful to Liverpool for what they did for me, but I have done all I can for them on the pitch in return.
“The fans were always brilliant with me and now I must wait to see if they view my exit negatively. That is football.”
His exit was viewed negatively but many fans also sympathised with Mascherano, especially when Christian Poulsen was brought in to replace him by the then Liverpool manager Roy Hodgson. Even the best betting sites at the time couldn’t have predicted that happening. Hodgson denied that the signing of Poulsen meant Mascherano would be leaving but a couple of weeks later, Mascherano was on his way and there was no wonder. It was a miserable time at Anfield.
Rafa Benitez tried to take him to Inter Milan but Barcelona would be his destination and he would go on to secure 17 pieces of silverware with them. He converted from a defensive midfielder to a centre-back and he became a fans’ favourite. Former Barca boss Pep Guardiola once said: “I would never, ever sell him and I wouldn’t swap him for anyone.” That’s how highly-regarded he was.
In June, Mascherano will turn 34. Not many fans will think that’s the ideal age to be signing a player. At 34 could he really offer Liverpool something? Liverpool need a centre-back AND a defensive midfielder but surely people are thinking with their heart and not their heads with this one?
When KopTalk broke an exclusive 17 years ago that Gary McAllister had agreed a deal to sign for Liverpool, we were absolutely slaughtered. We even questioned ourselves at the time asking why we were running such a crazy suggestion. Surely our source in the city had to have been winding us up. Well we know what happened next. McAllister was signed and he went on to be a major hit for Liverpool and his experience really played a huge part in Liverpool’s success under Gerard Houllier during that fabulous 2000-01 season.
So does that mean we should give Mascherano a chance? Would FSG really sanction a move for a 34-year-old? Why would Jürgen Klopp turn to him and would he even want the move anyway?
In our opinion we need to stop looking at the past and look forward. Liverpool fans desperately try to cling on to any form of success we once had. Memories of past glories and world class players that we once used to boast remain ingrained. However, those successes and those players, including Mascherano, are now just a part of our history.
Instead of thinking with our hearts and looking back at what we once had, let’s think with our heads and instead look forward to the arrival of the 22-year-old Naby Keïta.