Birthdate: 8 June 1984
Birthplace: San Lorenzo, Argentina
Other clubs: River Plate (2003-05), Corinthians (2005-06), West Ham United (2006-07), Barcelona (2010-)
Bought from: Global Soccer Agencies and Mystere Services Limited
Signed for LFC: £18.6m, 30.01.2007 (loan) - 29.02.2008 signed permanently
International debut: 16.07.2003 vs. Uruguay
International caps: 117/3 (41/2 at LFC) - 04.07.2015
Liverpool debut: 24.02.2007
Last appearance: 15.08.2010
Debut goal: 15.03.2008
Last goal: 25.02.2010
Contract expiry: 30.08.2010
Win ratio: 54.68% W: 76 D: 37 L: 26
LFC league games/goals: 94 / 1
Total LFC games/goals: 139 / 2
From the age of ten, Javier's father Oscar, demanded that he should learn the art of the enforcer. Javier clearly mastered that skill and attracted interest for his displays in the 2003 FIFA World Youth Championship when he was on the books of River Plate. He even made his full international debut before playing his first game in the Clausura league. In the 2005/06 season Mascherano joined Brazilian club Corinthians for £7.5 million. His deal came about after Corinthians signed a controversial deal with London-based investors, Media Sports Investments (MSI), headed by Kia Joorabchian. The deal granted MSI a big say in the future of the club in exchange for financial investments. This brought many other quality players to the team such as Carlos Tévez. However, they were not owned now by Corinthians but, in fact, MSI! Despite a troubled start to the Campeonato Brasileiro in 2005 the club was eventually crowned league champions. Unfortunately Mascherano suffered a leg break and didn't contribute a lot to that success. The Argentinian national team flew in their doctor to oversee his rehabilitation so he would be ready for the World Cup in Germany. As it turned out Mascherano played every minute as Argentina reached the quarter-finals only to be knocked out by the hosts after a penalty shoot-out. The relationship between MSI and Corinthians became increasingly difficult and in 2006 Mascherano and Tévez joined West Ham for an undisclosed fee. The sellers were not Corinthians, but, to perfectly muddy the waters, four investment funds: MSI, Just Sports Incorporated, Global Soccer Agencies (GSA) and Mystere Services Limited - all represented by Joorabchian. Tévez was owned by the former two and Mascherano the latter two.
Mysteriously the highly-rated Mascherano played only seven games in a struggling Hammers team sparking rumours about financial clauses that were related to his actual playing time. Mascherano had a particularly memorable game against Spurs when after sliding in on Jermaine Defoe the Spurs striker bit his arm! Rafa Benítez saw a golden opportunity for Liverpool to acquire a quality player and flew to London to meet him spending four hours at Canary Wharf talking with Mascherano, using stones to illustrate the role he envisaged him playing in the Liverpool team. Liverpool had to court FIFA to get him because of FIFA Article 5.3, which states that a player may not sign for more than three clubs, and play for more than two, between 1 July of one year and 30 June of the next. Benítez said at the time: "There is a big difference between the law and the rules. A worker cannot be stopped working. That's the law of the European community. There are players in the world now who have played for three or four clubs in a season. They have freedom and they need to work." He had his reasons for getting Mascherano: "He is a player with a good character, good mentality and personality and has the qualities we need. I knew about this player when he was with River Plate. He was playing in their reserve team but already in the national team. That shows you the quality and the character of the player."
Liverpool paid initially £1.6million to get Mascherano on loan with a view to a permanent transfer in January 2007 and he certainly impressed the fans, players and Rafa. 'Jefecito' or 'Little chief' proved to be a tough-tackling player, who distributed the ball well and encouraged others to give their best. In only his eleventh game he was Liverpool's best performer in the Champions League final against Milan in Athens. On 29 February 2008 he signed a permanent contract for four years with Liverpool who paid the required £17 million. He soon became a crowd favourite for his commitment and to the tune of White Stripes' "Seven Nation Army" his name echoed around Anfield. He was sometimes though a bit overzealous. March 2008 was a mixed month for Mascherano as he scored his first Liverpool goal with a brilliant effort against Reading at Anfield but was then sent off at Old Trafford a week later for confronting referee Steve Bennett at length after a yellow card had been given to Torres just before half-time. Mascherano had to be pushed off the field by Gerrard and Alonso and Benítez was also forced to plead with him to go into the dressing room. The usual one-game League ban for a straight red card was extended to three games for improper conduct.
Mascherano represented Argentina in the Olympic Games in Beijing in August 2008 as one of their over-23 players and became the only football player to have won two Olympic gold medals as he was also in Argentina's successful team in Athens 2004. Soon after being appointed head coach of Argentina in November 2008, Diego Maradona appointed Mascherano as team captain. Maradona's decision didn't come as a surprise as soon after his compatriot's arrival at Liverpool he declared that "Mascherano has the biggest talent of all the young players I have seen in the last years. He is a monster of a player and destined for great things." The Argentinan was however not as dynamic as was expected for Liverpool for the first part of the 2008/09 season and clearly suffered from not getting sufficient rest over the summer because of his international duties. Eventually he got back to his very best and it was hardly surprising that big clubs such as European champions, Barcelona, showed strong interest in him during the summer. Mascherano's agent claimed that his client wanted to join Barca, but Liverpool didn't want to sell him under any circumstances.
Argentina's captain took a while to get going in the 2009/10 season, confessing he found it hard to motivate himself after his proposed move to Barcelona fell through. A couple of months into the season he got back to his usual tremendous standards in Liverpool's midfield, only missing four Premier League matches and four cup matches during the whole campaign. His presence certainly was missed when he was unavailable, but he was, however, the architect of his own unavailability. He received a red card for an unnecessary lunge at United's van der Sar at Anfield in October and got another red against Portsmouth just before Christmas. It wasn't surprising that he was ranked #1 on the disciplinary list in the 2009/10 Premier League season with nine yellows and two reds. A highlight was a fierce drive in the Goodison derby that deflected off Yobo and into the Gladwys Street goal. Mascherano's run and dive in front of the away supporters showed his player's passion and enthusiasm and his pride in wearing a Liverpool shirt.
The unavoidable happened on the penultimate day of the summer transfer window in 2010 when Mascherano signed a four-year deal with Barcelona. He played in 27 of the 38 league fixtures as Barca retained their domestic title with 96 points and also played in eleven Champions League matches including the Wembley final at the end of May when the Catalans blew Manchester United away with a wonderful display of slick, confident football. His joy was unconfined though as he finally exorcised the demons of his previous final appearance in this competition, for Liverpool in Athens in 2007. Mascherano told the watching world "To win the Champions League for any footballer is the top title" to which he poignantly added "I know that Liverpool supporters after my exit were a little bit sad with me so this is for them as well." Now being accustomed to playing centre-half rather than a holding midfielder Mascherano made 52 first-team appearances for Barcelona in 2011/12. The Catalans surrendered the League title to Real Madrid after holding it for three seasons. But there was consolation for Mascherano in the form of the Copa del Rey, won 3-0 by Barcelona against Athletic Bilbao. Mascherano was part of Barca's historic start to the 2012/13 season, though he found himself spending a few games on the bench. Ulimately, though, he still played in twenty-five La Liga matches and that was easily enough to give him another winners' medal. He also appeared eight times in the Champions League and six times in the Copa del Rey.
Mascherano played in 28 of Barcelona's 38 La Liga matches in 2013/14 as the Catalans finished runners-up to Atletico Madrid. He also appeared in 7 of Barca's 9 Copa del Rey matches including the final which Real Madrid won 2-1 at Valencia's Mestalla Stadium in the middle of April. Mascherano continued to play as a central defender for his club but was still used occasionally as a defensive midfielder by his country. Early in June 2014 he signed a four-year extension to his club contract which tied him to Barcelona until 2018 unless another club was prepared to pay the around eighty million pounds that was included in a buyout clause to the new contract. He marked the following season with another Champions League medal, playing the whole 90 minutes of the final against Juventus in Berlin.