Javier Mascherano has opened up about the end of his Liverpool career, saying that he regrets part of the way he left the club and that the Reds will always hold a special place in his heart.
As Barcelona swooped for the Argentinian in 2010, Mascherano says that Liverpool resisted selling him and that he had to take matters into his own hands by refusing to play against Manchester City. In the end, Barça got their man - but that doesn't mean that Mascherano doesn't regret the way his time at Anfield ended.
Speaking in the April 2021 issue of FourFourTwo magazine – available to order with free delivery now (opens in new tab) – Mascherano answers questions about whether he regretted sitting out of the City game to get his move.
"On one side I honestly do, as Liverpool fans weren’t happy with me at all and I completely understood why," he explains. "On the other hand, the board at the time had promised me something and weren’t keeping their word."
"There was an agreement between us that if Liverpool received a decent offer for me, I’d be permitted to leave. We’d spoken about extending my contract, but it seemed like the directors didn’t care about me. In the pre-season after Rafa left, Roy Hodgson arrived. We had a meeting with the managing director, Christian Purslow, who told me I could go if a good offer came in. Then there was an offer on the table, but Liverpool were looking the other way."
"I was quite angry that they weren’t keeping their word. Refusing to play at City was the way I found to show my annoyance. I’d told the club I wanted to leave for family reasons, so I was very upset to have to act the way I did. There was no other option – otherwise, Liverpool wouldn’t keep their promise."
Mascherano went on to play 334 times for the Catalan outfit, both as a midfielder and a defender. The Argentinian was a huge success, winning five La Liga titles, two Champions League trophies and a plethora of other honours. Despite this, Mascherano says that he was really happy on Merseyside and that his departure was more motivated by what was best for his family.
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"I was really happy in Liverpool, but it was tough for my wife and daughters," he says. "Although I was playing regularly and the supporters loved me – and they’re extraordinary people – the issue was that I trained for three or four hours a day and had 20 hours left to stay at home."
It’s difficult to see your family unhappy and unsettled because of the language, the weather… I needed to go somewhere else for the wellbeing of my loved ones."
Mascherano arrived in England as part of the controversial "third-party" transfer that brought him and Carlos Tevez to West Ham United in 2006. The pair only stayed in east London for a season though, as both moved up north, with Tevez going to Manchester United. Rafa Benitez, who was Reds manager at the time, was key in helping in the Argentinian settle, according to the man himself.
"Yes, I’m a Liverpool supporter. I really mean it," he says. "Nobody has ever treated me as well as Liverpool fans did – never. Throughout the three and a half years there, they made me feel like I was one of them; like I was at home. That’s why I dedicated Barca’s 2011 Champions League Final win against Manchester United to them: it was the least I could do to pay them back somehow. I knew they weren’t happy, and I wanted to share the moment with them."
"I’ll be forever grateful for the way [Rafa Benitez] helped me – without him, my career wouldn’t have been the same. When I went to Liverpool, I was still a young player with little experience, but Rafa’s concepts and philosophy shaped me into a far better player. I evolved a lot under him defensively, and my reading of the game improved a great deal too."
"We keep in touch and still have a good relationship."
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