On deadline day, Sportsmail had a unique insight into one of the most intriguing deals. Javier Mascherano completed his move to Liverpool from West Ham, but only after FIFA granted him permission to move to a third club this season.
Then Mascherano had to wait for the FA to authorise the transfer, with the midnight deadline looming
Good enough for Diego Maradona, not good enough to displace Hayden Mullins or Nigel Quashie. Javier Mascherano yesterday moved from West Ham to Liverpool. No more relegation worries, there's a Merseyside derby to prepare for, not to mention a date with Ronaldinho and Barcelona in the Champions League.
"Of all the young players from Argentina, Mascherano impresses me the most. He is a monster of a player and is destined for great things," says Maradona of his 22-year-old countryman.
More impressive than Lionel Messi? Let's look at the evidence:
• Mascherano made his full international debut one year before his league debut for River Plate. • He has 20 caps and played in every minute of Argentina's 2006 World Cup campaign. He also won a gold medal at the Athens Olympics. • When El Jefe - The Chief - broke his foot playing for Corinthians a year before the World Cup, Argentina flew their doctor to Brazil to oversee the rehabilitation to make sure Mascherano was fit for Germany.
Still not good enough for West Ham, though. So Rafa Benitez, with his worldly knowledge of football, came to London's Canary Wharf to spend four hours talking with Mascherano, using stones to illustrate the role he will play in the Liverpool team.
"After these months when I've hardly had the chance to play, to sign for a team like Liverpool is very important for my career and my life," he told me on Wednesday. "The whole world knows about the history of Liverpool."
The comforting words uttered by Benitez have soothed Mascherano's wounds after starting only three Premiership games at West Ham, all defeats. The Liverpool manager has tracked the player since coaching Valencia and Mascherano already feels loved.
"It's strange to be leaving West Ham, without playing, and going to a huge club such as Liverpool. What I must do is to forget what has happened and concentrate on what might happen.
"It is especially important that someone of Rafa's calibre has belief in me. This opportunity is there for me. I have to show the manager that his expectation is justified."
His passion for the Premiership is unaffected. "I am sad that it didn't work for me at West Ham. I came with great hope and I don't know why they didn't pick me.
"Every day I was there, training hard, just in case. I'm satisfied with my professionalism. I didn't complain, I accepted that I was not in the plans of Alan Pardew, or Alan Curbishley.
"I wasn't picked when West Ham were winning, or when they were losing." And they have had more practice of the latter recently.
'Now I am going to Liverpool. English football is the place to be. I love it here. If you can prove yourself in England, if you can play football at this speed, with this level of competition, then you can play anywhere in the world." Which explains why he rejected Juventus for Anfield. A dockside apartment in Liverpool will be his next destination, Steven Gerrard his likely sidekick. "Gerrard is fantastic, fantastic, fantastic," Mascherano emphasises...in English.
His last engagement before heading north is to talk to Sportsmail. We are sitting over lunch with his mentor Kia Joorabchian, who owns 50 per cent of the player.
This transfer, initially a complicated 18-month loan, is one of seven for Joorabchian to complete during the last days of the transfer window. In the past month he has been involved in 16 deals.
Joorabchian - "my friend who helps me to reach big decisions" - translates for much of this conversation, though Mascherano's English is improving. He stopped taking lessons two months ago, a sign of his disillusionment, but will start again in Liverpool.
FIFA's ruling on this unique transfer is on the table before us and takes up 11 pages. In authorising his transfer to a third club in the same season, they have made much of Mascherano's dedication, adding that "[he] has fulfilled his contractual and playing obligations fully at all times". In fact, he trained alone on Tuesday when the rest of the West Ham team were preparing for the Liverpool game.
He's a smart lad too. Today is not the time for criticism of West Ham. If he is successful with Liverpool, their potential embarrassment is not his problem.
"The day you leave a club is not the day to talk about them in a disparaging manner. My time at West Ham wasn't what it was meant to be; I was excited to be joining a club like that. They haven't won much and I wanted to help to change that. I feel bad that I couldn't.
"Today I went and said goodbye and the players wished me good luck. I have to take a positive from this; I have never been at a club where I was not wanted in the team, where I wasn't an important player. It is an experience I would not wish to repeat."
He is reminded of the incident with Jermain Defoe at Tottenham, when he was bitten, on a rare appearance in a West Ham shirt.
"I am glad that you asked me, because I have never spoken about it before, although there were many quotes attributed to me after the game. All I will say is that I never complain about anything that happens on the field of play. What happens on the field, must stay on the field." Surely all new signings, especially from abroad, need time to settle. Mascherano doesn't need the excuse. "Not everyone needs that time. Gabriel Heinze didn't need time to settle when he came to Manchester United.
"There are players who can be an instant success - I don't want to complain and say that I need time to adapt. A real professional must seize the moment."
He leaves behind his friend and compatriot Carlos Tevez. "I knew we would separate because I have been sure to go to Liverpool for some time. I hope to play with him again, but I have to move on."
And, finally, is he really as good as Maradona says? "Diego is an incredible person and I feel very happy when he says good things about me, but, ultimately, I have to prove myself, to myself."
Passport faxed, registration papers on their way, time to go home and pack. The Argentine Makelele is heading for a club who want him. Watch this space.
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