‘I realised that…’ – Former Barcelona defender opens up on circumstances leading to exit

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Javier Mascherano arguably stands as one of Barcelona’s most underappreciated and overlooked players in recent times.

Mascherano joined Barcelona in 2010, transitioning from his role as a defensive midfielder to that of a central defender.

Replacing Carles Puyol, he spent eight successful seasons at the club and quickly became an imperious presence at the heart of Barcelona’s defence, forming a long-standing partnership with Gerard Pique.

Mascherano opens up about how his exit transpired

Speaking to Clank.Media (h/t AS) Mascherano professed that his playtime was reduced under Luis Enrique in 2016/17 but still valued playing fewer high-level games at Barcelona.

When Ernesto Valverde arrived in 2017, Mascherano expressed his need for regular playtime due to the upcoming World Cup.

“In 2016/17 with Luis Enrique, I was the replacement for Piqué and Umtiti, but I understood that playing 25–30 games at Barcelona at that level was better than playing 50 somewhere else. When Ernesto Valverde arrived in 2017 I had a chat with him.

“I told him that if I was going to be left behind from the start I would think about it because it was a World Cup year and I have to play, because at 33-34 years old the rhythm is lost if you don’t play,” he said.

Mascherano left Barcelona in January 2018. (Photo credit should read LLUIS GENE/AFP via Getty Images)

However, Valverde’s preference for other defenders made Mascherano realize he would play even less. Injuries and limited national team appearances pushed him to seek more consistent game-time and eventually push for an exit.

“He told me that he was clear that he had three centre-backs for two positions. La Liga started and I realised that I was going to have fewer minutes than expected. In the first call-up with Argentina against Uruguay and Venezuela I only played against Venezuela.

“We drew and qualification became complicated for us. It was the same dynamic as at the club. On the last matchday of the year I tore my muscle against Nigeria, and when I returned to Barcelona I saw that I had to leave to have six months of continuity.

Barcelona denied the Argentine’s request to stay in Europe, leading him to accept a transfer to China for more minutes and a significant contract.

“The idea was to stay in Europe from January to June 2018. Barcelona told me that I was not going anywhere in Europe. The issue of China with a huge contract came up and I thought of myself. Barcelona accepted because they paid the transfer fee,” he stated.

On the criticism Messi endured

Mascherano also reflected on how Lionel Messi felt underappreciated in his own country by a vocal minority before his international trophy drought ended.

This minority’s criticism stood out, despite the majority’s support. Even so, eventually, Messi’s character began to surface in front of the public eye and the famous Copa America speech revealed more about his true character and leadership.

“He was admired all over the world, and where you most want to feel loved, you are not. But it was by a minority, although many minorities make a lot of noise. When you grow up, you see everything in a different way.

“If there hadn’t been a camera at the Copa America final where you see the speech, we wouldn’t have known so much about him,” he remarked.

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