Barcelona utility man Javier Mascherano will go to the World Cup in Brazil at the center of intense transfer speculation, with reports he is ready for a return to the Premier League. A midfielder by trade, Mascherano has been deployed as makeshift, yet impressive, central defender acing as cover for Carles Puyol and Piqué.
In recent weeks, he has become more vocal about what he sees as as a bleak future for the Catalan giants. Two managers in as many seasons, a temporarily suspended transfer ban, tax issues revolving around its two biggest names – Lionel Messi and Neymar – and losing out on the title to the emerging force Atlético Madrid, has all taken its toll on the club. Mascherano said last week that the side was in side of complete rebuilding, while hinting he was ready for a move away from the Camp Nou.
Former club Liverpool are said to be interested in the player, as are Italian side Roma. Mascherano first rose to prominence in Europe for the wrong reasons. He moved to West Ham United with fellow Argentine Carlos Tévez from Corinthians but the “transfer” was unusual in that a third party, by the name of Kia Joorabchian, owned the players. West Ham were subsequently handed a world record £5.5 million by the Premier League both for their involvement and players soon moved on to Liverpool and Manchester United respectively.
Mascherano is one of Argentina’s key players. With well over 100 caps before the age of 30, he is regarded as one of the players the Argentina youngsters look up to. When the World Cup comes to an end, Mascherano will only be 30-years-old. That combined with the fact he is a player who does not rely on pace, means he will remain an attractive proposition for a number of clubs. Manchester United were loosely linked with the player, but his hero status at Anfield would make it very hard for him to join Liverpool’s biggest rivals. Yet while Mascherano remains at the center of intense transfer speculation, his next job is to help one of Argentina’s best ever attacking sides win the World Cup in neighboring Brazil.
The embarrassment of attacking riches at manager Alejandro Sabella’s disposal could not be made any clearer – Tévez will be watching the tournament on television. The Juventus man would walk into most national teams, but his very public falling outs with numerous people over the years have pushed him down the pecking order. Mascherano will be key in underpinning the attacking nature of La Selección by tempering the free-flowing play of who are supposed to be the more defensive players. Although Argentina is expected to score a lot of goals at the World Cup finals with intensive attacking displays, critics fear the back four could be exposed against some of the better sides. Mascherano will be central to making sure that is not the case. Yet while Barça remain quiet on Mascherano’s future, his claim that the Blaugrana have reached the “end of an era” could mean a transfer is best for all parties concerned.
World Cup Preview is a series providing commentary and analysis of the teams and players participating in this year’s World Cup in Brazil.
Commentary by Robert Shepherd