LFC Advent Calendar 20 – Javier Mascherano
Javier Mascherano arrived on controversial terms in Merseyside – a process which included battles with FIFA and the Premier League over his registration – after a torrid six-month spell where he spent most of his time on the bench or the stands while his West Ham teammates fought a relegation battle. Add that to the fact that he was being coached by Alan Pardew and he’d be excused if he decided to leave England and never comeback. That’s not the type of player he is though, and after a longwait ‘El Jefecito’ finally joined Liverpool on loan on the the 20th of February in 2007 – a move made permanent in the following window.
Mascherano was a snide bastard. His blood was hotter than a couple dancing Tango in the streets of Buenos Aires and his heart was bigger than anyone else’s. The Argentinian went on to make 139 appearances for Liverpool, 132 of which he started the game, and added 41 of his 147 international caps while at Anfield.
‘Masche’ broke through River Plate’s academy in Buenos Aires where he was so highly rated that his first cap for Argentina came before his league debut. After winning a Gold medal in Athens, alongside soon-to-be-stars Carlos Tévez and Javier Saviola, Mascherano moved to brazilian-based club Corinthians and only a season later he was revealed as a West Ham player – again, alongside Carlos Tévez, who also followed him to Corinthians, where they won the Brasileirao.
Once at Anfield, the Little Chief made sure everybody knew exactly why Rafa Benitez was so keen on him and it took only 11 appearances for fans to realize what a gem Rafa had in his hands. After his debut in a four-nil win against Sheffield United he went on to make another 6 league appearances to go along with his 4 european outings that season, with his personal highlight being the Champions League final against AC Milan in Athens where Liverpool fans voted him as the best LFC player on the pitch that day – although just a consolation prize, as AC Milan got their Istanbul revenge by beating us 2-1.
After the move was made permanent, Mascherano just grew in stature and importance on the pitch. He was the heart and soul of the best midfield in the world – a feature reconigsed by fans who sang his name alongside the likes of Xabi Alonso, Momo Sissoko and Gerrard.
Known as a tough-tackling, no-nonsense, red-nosed defensive midfielder, most people forget just how technical and intelligent he was. That lad could half pick a pass when he had to and he was always at the right place and at the right time. Even if he wasn’t as flashy as Xabi or Stevie, he could move the ball similarly effectively.
It wasn’t all perfect of course, as his temper led him to the top of the disciplinary charts of the Premier League and he was no stranger to red cards, rough tackles and brawls, but ultimately he was a warrior and never backed down on a fight. His passion and sheer determination, coupled with his natural talents made him a fan favourite and his influence was so big that Liverpool only now, 8 years after his departure, were able to replace everything he brought to a football pitch as a DM in the shape of Fabinho.
The manner in which he left the club was as controversial as his arrival, which angered the fans to an extent but when you put it in perspective you can’t really blame him for wanting to play for Pep Guardiola instead of Roy Hodgson and he did try to make amends after winning the Champions League in 2010, where Barcelona beat Manchester United, and telling the Mancs to shove it up their asses on live TV – I might be paraphrasing but that was the general message, basically.
His best days are now long gone and he’s playing his last days of footy at Chinese outfit Hebei CFFC, probably making more money than I’ll ever manage in my lifetime after just a training session. He fought really hard throughout his career so we’ll let him have that. Longlive el Jefecito!