Barcelona Transfer News: Javier Mascherano Approached, Latest on January Rumours

Rob Blanchette@@_Rob_BFeatured ColumnistDecember 21, 2015

FC Barcelona’s Javier Mascherano of Argentina, left, and River Plate’s Sebastian Driussi charge the ball during their final match at the FIFA Club World Cup soccer tournament in Yokohama, near Tokyo, Japan, Sunday, Dec. 20, 2015. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)
Eugene Hoshiko/Associated Press

Javier Mascherano has been approached by former club River Plate to rejoin their ranks after Barcelona defeated the famous Argentinian outfit in the FIFA Club World Cup final. 

Fox Sports (h/t Marca) quoted River president Rodolfo D'Onofrio addressing the possibility of the defensive midfielder returning to his first team and confirmed he asked Mascherano about the potential move: "I spoke to Mascherano and obviously I tried to talk him into coming back. We've come to the end of a winning cycle and I feel we need to strengthen the team. You can't keep hold of players that have won everything."

The Argentina international came through the Buenos Aires club's youth ranks before moving to Brazil's Corinthians for one season, finally making his way to Europe to sign for West Ham United

MANU FERNANDEZ/Associated Press

After a short spell in east London, he transferred to Liverpool in 2007, where the player became a cult hero with fans on the Anfield Kop before signing for the Blaugrana three years later. 

Despite the request to rejoin Los Millonarios, Mascherano was jeered by travelling fans of River in Tokyo as Barca took their flights back to Spain.

Sergi Font of Marca confirmed the midfielder and fellow Argentinian Lionel Messi were insulted by their countrymen at Narita International Airport.

Font wrote:

A number of River Plate supporters found themselves side by side with the world champions in the passport control area and proceeded to insult and barrack a group of players. Some even went as far as spitting at Lionel Messi.

It took the intervention of Luis Enrique and other members of the Barca squad to prevent things from escalating and put an end to the altercation. Several players voiced their unease over the episode. Chief among them was former River star Javier Mascherano, who was visibly upset because the Argentinian fans berated him and accused him of having forgotten where he came from.

Barcelona defender Javier Mascherano (L) and River Plate forward Lucas Alario compete for the ball during the Club World Cup football final in Yokohama on December 20, 2015.  AFP PHOTO / YOSHIKAZU TSUNO / AFP / YOSHIKAZU TSUNO        (Photo credit should
YOSHIKAZU TSUNO/Getty Images

D'Onofrio apologised for the incident and dismissed the fans who confronted the players, telling Fox: "There are always fools around. Messi is a gentleman; after he scored he held up his hand to apologise. He told me how he came close to joining River."

Mascherano has been a loyal servant to Barca for more than five seasons and has hurdled expectations during his time in the Catalan homeland.

The 31-year-old has seen himself converted into a reliable central defender at the Camp Nou and has started 15 times in La Liga and the UEFA Champions League this term, according to WhoScored.com.

The former Liverpool man still has years left in his boots, and his combative style is an element Barca should retain. 

Dortmund's Gabonese striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang celebrates after his goal during the German Cup DFB Pokal third round match between Borussia Dortmund and FC Augsburg in Augsburg on December 16, 2015.  / AFP / Christof STACHE / RESTRICTIONS: ACCORDIN
CHRISTOF STACHE/Getty Images

In other news, Borussia Dortmund striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has said he has no ambition to leave his club this season after rumours linked the player with a switch to Barca.

Aubameyang told German publication Kicker (h/t Sky Sports) he is happy at BVB and has a very special connection to Dortmund's euphoric fan base:

I am very happy here. The people here accept me for who I am. Dortmund has become my second home.

I learnt a lot through the clubs I've played for previously [AC Milan, Dijon, Lille, Monaco] both negative and positive. It's made me a better person.

Every goal I score feels like the first. It's a special feeling to play in front of these fans. I don't know my limits yet. I set personal goals every season, that's very important to me. I have improved in every year I've been at Dortmund.

According to German newspaper Bild (h/t Uche Amako of the Daily Express), BVB have placed a £42 million price tag on the striker's head, forcing Barca to pay top dollar if they want to add Aubameyang to their dangerous front line.

Here is a video displaying the attacker's best moments of the campaign:

The striker has continued to impress in the Bundesliga, scoring 18 times this season, per WhoScored, but it is debatable whether Barcelona need his talents at present. 

The Gabon international has the ability to play either side of the centre-forward, but he has excelled in the No. 9 role for the German team.

If he arrives at the Camp Nou, he would be in direct competition with Luis Suarez, and despite his exceptional showing in 2015, Aubameyang would be consigned to the bench.

The Premier League looks a good fit for the attacker's skill set, and the pace of English football will afford him more opportunities to show his prowess in future.