Growing up in Buenos Aires, Javier Mascherano only wanted to be a destroyer. From the age of 10, his father Oscar demanded he should learn the art of the enforcer.
He did it so well that El Jefecito (The Little Chief) was born and ten days ago Liverpool paid £19million to make the Argentine international the world's most expensive 'water carrier'.
We have not all learned to love the position of holding midfielder so Mascherano, a likeable little chap who speaks excellent English, kindly offers me a master class in his duties.
'The holding midfielder must keep his position, cover the space, protect the centre back. The most important job is to protect the centre back. Then, win the second balls. In England, many teams play long, so be ready to collect the second ball.
'When you have the ball, do not give it away; a simple pass, easy ball to one of your team-mates.
'When Claude Makelele came to Chelsea, he showed you how to play the position. It was an education. Always, Makelele is in the right position. He doesn't have to run a lot, he knows where he must be, he anticipates danger. Owen Hargreaves is the best English player for this job.'
All dirty work and no goals or glory? 'Well, it's very difficult to find a holding player who can score too,' he accepts. 'You can't do everything! Every player has a role in the team. For the holding midfielder, his job is tactical.
'Maybe the fans don't yet like the position too much because it is seen as negative. They like goals, but I come back again and ask you “how can you score when you are the holding midfielder?”.
'If you have a good shot, it helps, like Xabi Alonso, who has a beautiful shot, but my priority is my job. Perhaps I could score three goals a season. Maybe. I will try, no?'
Tackling is a crucial part of his game, too. Mascherano, however, is not known for studs-up challenges. 'No. I try to run parallel with my opponent and then slide in and hope to come out with the ball.
'The timing of the tackle is everything. I never try to kick other players. When I do the tackle I never go to hurt, I never try violence.
'Okay, sometimes I commit a foul if the tackle is mistimed, but never with intent. I try to do this (he sweeps with his foot) and retrieve the ball. I am calm in my head when I tackle and I don't tackle from behind.'
Kia Joorabchian, his mentor, first signed Mascherano, 23, from River Plate and then took him to Anfield via Corinthians and West Ham.
'He is not my owner, he is my friend,' insists Mascherano. 'He has helped to make this possible. I wanted to be at Liverpool, I have always said that.
'I felt from the first moment when I arrived: “This is my house”. When I was a boy, I never imagined it would be possible. In Argentina, we look to Europe, but we think of Real Madrid, Barcelona or Milan. Never Liverpool.
'We have heard of the city, of course, because we know The Beatles. They were my father's favourite rock band.
'When I came here, I wanted to understand the Liverpool life. I have been reading, watching films. This club and the city has a lot of history, many great players from the past and so many achievements. It is one of the biggest clubs in the world. From the decades in the 70s and 80s, they won many things.
'I know that playing here now I can win titles, too. We have a squad to do that.
'We have players who've won the Champions League, UEFA Cup, FA Cup, Carling Cup. The only one missing is the Premier League. The supporters want this title.
'This season, the target is the top four but we need to think about next season and prepare everything so we don't make the same mistakes. We have drawn too many games at home.
'I watched Liverpool win the Champions League on television and now I am playing with Steven Gerrard. He is better than I imagined — his finishing, his shooting. He is the complete midfielder, the perfect midfielder. Technique, pace, power and he is very clever.'
It has been a difficult period for Rafa Benitez, who communicates with Mascherano in English, but his Little Chief has this message.
'I don't forget that he came and took me from West Ham, where I was in the second team. I know this season has not been the best time for Rafa, but it is not his fault that we are behind Arsenal. He is not on the pitch.
'To win the title, you need the supporters, the squad, the staff, the owners together. It is like this table in front of us. You need the four legs or it will fall over.'
Copyright - Daily Mail