5 Reasons Why Javier Mascherano Should Be the New Barcelona Captain
Javier Mascherano isn't known as El Jefecito or "The Little Boss" for nothing.
Throughout the World Cup finals, in word and deed, Mascherano was head and shoulders above most over players in the tournament.
Restored to his preferred home of defensive midfield anchor, we got to see the very best of the Argentine.
Such qualities would be well received in Catalonia with at least two, possibly three, of Barcelona's four captains having already flown the nest.
Carles Puyol and Victor Valdes are gone and Xavi Hernandez may shortly follow suit. In Javier Mascherano, they have a ready-made replacement.
Let's take a look at five reasons why "Masche" should become the Blaugrana's new team captain.
Who is it slap bang in the middle, commanding the attention and respect of the entire squad, manager and backroom staff? Eating out of the palm of his hand.
Despite losing the national team captaincy to Lionel Messi back in 2011, it's clear to anyone who is the real voice in the dressing room.
When Javier Mascherano talks, people listen.
Leading by Example
We've seen it much more in the World Cup, principally because he is being played in his rightful position.
Javier Mascherano will grab the game by the scruff of the neck and drag his team-mates up to his level. Getting the absolute maximum during 90 minutes.
Witness the tackle that he made on Arjen Robben in the dying minutes of the semi-final. Nothing was going to stop him winning the ball even if it was a little painful in the process, per James Orr of The Independent:
I thought I had slipped, I thought I wouldn’t make it, but I tore my anus on that move, the pain...it was terrible.
I threw myself into it. I could have been sent off. It could have been a penalty but anyone could have done that, I had the luck to get there.
Barca's last captain would no doubt send a knowing wink in Mascherano's direction. It was straight out of the Carles Puyol book of defending and is exactly the sort of example the captain needs to set to his players.
In 2008, not long after Diego Maradona took over the mantle of national team coach, there was only one person whom he could trust with the captaincy. Via BBC News, Maradona is quoted thus:
I want Mascherano to be my captain because I believe he is the Argentinian player who is closest to the idea I have about the Argentinian shirt – sweat for it, sacrifice for it, being a professional, being close to the team-mate. I will convince him. He will be my captain.
Once Alejandro Sabella took over the reigns in 2011, he would pass on the captaincy to Lionel Messi, but Mascherano clearly has the better overall experience in the role.
Experience that will hold him in good stead at Barca.
No Other Standout Candidates
Luis Enrique will have his own designs on whom he feels should be his main captain.
Javier Mascherano can't have done his own chances any harm but a lot will depend on the template with which Enrique intends to play.
The usual Barca 4-3-3 will not be able to accommodate Mascherano in his preferred role if Enrique chooses Sergio Busquets in the holding role, as the three previous Barca managers have done.
Busquets himself would be happy to take on the responsibility, per Heath Chesters of Inside Spanish Football:
Right now the captains are who they are because they’re veterans. We’ll have to see what happens next season. If my team-mates choose me, it would be a joy, but whoever the captains are, they will be the right choice.
With no real experience in the role, it's hard to envisage Busquets being a candidate, realistically leaving only Andres Iniesta and possibly Gerard Pique.
Iniesta is already a club captain so his promotion is a possibility, but neither he nor Pique are really captain material.
When all is said and done, Mascherano is still the standout option.
The Choice of the Fanbase
Ask the Barcelona faithful who they would like to see lead the team next season and their answer is unequivocal.
Sport (via ESPN) noted that Mascherano gained 63 percent of all of the votes, Lionel Messi trailing well behind with just six percent.
Whilst the fans certainly don't choose the captain, they obviously see attributes in his performance that mark Mascherano out amongst his contemporaries.
Luis Enrique also noted on Barca TV (via Ameen Rabbani of Inside Spanish Football) that the new captain will be voted in, albeit by his colleagues:
A captain is not whoever lifts the cup or shakes hands with the referee, it is much more. The captains should be the reference points for the players, they should be voted for and that’s it.
I know the personalities of the Barça players and those who can be captains. “We will have fluid communication. I do not want captains who are the most handsome, the most veteran, the nicest guys or those who sign the most autographs.
I am aware of how it is at Barça. I know the personality of those who can be Barca captains, who are more than ready. They are great protagonists and should feel they like it here. We are working on that.
It would be something of a surprise if the playing squad saw things differently to a knowledgeable Camp Nou.