Koji Sasahara/Associated Press
Javier Mascherano splits opinion among Barcelona fans.
Some adore his work ethic, his leadership and his sheer bravery. He puts his body on the line for the team without regard for his own well-being whenever he plays.
Mascherano said he doesn't feel good when he plays football. Per Sport, he explained: "I don't enjoy the games, I suffer football. During the 90 minutes I have to concentrate. I only have fun in training."
That demonstrates the type of player he is and his commitment to the cause. It also shows why Luis Enrique likes him.
In a team full of skilful, crafty players, sometimes you need someone who will scrap and scurry. But there is an argument that says sometimes he's not at the same level as his team-mates in terms of the intelligence of his play.
He was all at sea for Espanyol's opener in the Copa del Rey clash on Wednesday, with Marco Asensio and Felipe Caicedo running amok. Mascherano is one of the more error-prone players in the Barcelona team.
Meanwhile, although Thomas Vermaelen's chances have been limited, he has impressed whenever he has been selected.
The one exception was the 4-0 crushing by Athletic Bilbao in the first leg of the Spanish Super Cup back in August, but nobody played well for the Catalans that day.
In his next game—also against Athletic in the Basque Country—he helped Barcelona keep a clean sheet in a 1-0 win before scoring the winning goal at home against Malaga in the team's next outing.
Other appearances have been strong, including in the 4-0 win over Real Betis and the 3-0 triumph over BATE Borisov.
If Mascherano is injured or suspended and the Belgium international gets a run in the team, he may be difficult for the Argentinian to dislodge.