Javier Mascherano has made himself an extremely valuable and versatile member of the Barcelona football club over the past four seasons. So to reward him for his contributions, the club has extended his contract for another four years.
From the club's official website:
FC Barcelona is pleased to announce that agreement has been reached with Javier Mascherano to improve and extend his contract for another four seasons, until 30 June 2018, plus an option on a further season. The buy-out clause is 100 million euros.
Javier Mascherano has enjoyed a fruitful spell with Barca, winning the Champions League (2011), two Spanish leagues (2011 and 2013), the Spanish Cup (2012), the European Super Cup (2011), two Spanish Super Cups (2012 and 2014) and the World Club Cup (2011).
This shouldn't come as a surprise. In late May and amid rumors Mascherano might leave the club, President Josep Maria Bartomeu told Onda Cero, via Fox Sports: "Mascherano is a key player on the field, he stays at Barca."
It was certainly smart for Barcelona to secure Mascherano's long-term future with the club. Napoli in particular was reportedly extremely interested in bringing him aboard, and it's likely the 30-year-old would have garnered even more interest from various clubs if they suspected he could be had.
Mascherano started his career playing as a central defensive midfielder—and still plays that role internationally for Argentina—but he spent the entire season for Barcelona playing as a centre-back, and has often filled that role throughout his time at the club. He certainly handled the position well, earning a 7.13 average match rating from WhoScored in 28 La Liga appearances.
However, Football Espana reported that new manager Luis Enrique could return him to a midfield role, perhaps a factor in Mascherano deciding to stay. They also noted that he could be given a captain's role at some point, as the hierarchy at the club values his leadership.
Adds football writer Sergi Dominguez:
Mascherano extends his contract at Barça until 2018. Essential player - a fighter. A captain in the making.— Sergi Domínguez (@FutbolSergi) June 7, 2014
Clearly, retaining him was a top priority for the club.
Folks accustomed to seeing him in a defensive role will get the chance to see him play as a midfielder for Argentina at the World Cup, as he is one of the key figures for his country in his defensive mid role. While Barcelona doesn't lack for quality midfielders, retaining a man of Mascherano's versatility, talent and motor was vital for the club as it looks to rebound from a disappointing 2013-14 season.