Barcelona kicked off their new season with a thrilling 3-0 victory over Elche at the Camp Nou on Sunday. Lionel Messi was a spectacle to behold as usual, while a few other players brought the fans to their feet several times.
However, one of the underlying stories from the match is that of Javier Mascherano.
After such a strong performance at the World Cup, many expected Mascherano’s days as a center-back to finally be over. Yet, the 30-year-old partnered with Jeremy Mathieu in the back line even though young Marc Bartra was available.
On the surface, it was a sign that Mascherano will still be used as a defender at Barcelona, though he could also back up Sergio Busquets when needed. However, it was certainly a night to forget for the Argentine star.
Barcelona took the lead late in the first half through a wonderful linkup play between Busquets and Messi. But moments later, Mascherano would be sent off after getting his legs tangled up with an Elche attacker as the last man.
As always, such a foul warranted a red card, and with that Barcelona were down a man after just taking the lead.
The rest of the match went over well for La Blaugrana. Young striker Munir El-Haddadi doubled the lead at the start of the second half and Messi added a third a bit later. Looking back, Mascherano’s sending off did not hurt the team as much as it could have, but it was a terrible thing to happen to the 30-year-old.
This season will be massively important for Javier Mascherano. He isn’t getting any younger and his role in the team is still up for debate. He rarely plays in the midfield where he is at his best, but the club also just signed two new defenders that will push the Argentine for minutes.
Mascherano must earn his place at Barcelona this season or he could very well be on the way out in the future. The former Liverpool man was handed a prime opportunity to continue his World Cup form on Sunday, but his sending off was an awful way to start the new campaign.
No one doubts Mascherano’s talent, especially after the World Cup. Yet, now is the time to show that he can carry that form into club play as well. Sunday’s match was surely one to forget for the Argentine, but now is the time to bounce back and step up in a major way.
What will Mascherano's role be this season? Can he return to being a defensive midfielder? Leave your thoughts and comments below!