Barcelona defender Javier Mascherano has admitted it’s unlikely he will retire at the Camp Nou, insisting eventually he doesn't feel as though he'll be able to make the starting XI consistently.
Since joining the club from Liverpool in 2010, the Argentina international has become a critical component of the Blaugrana squad, converting from a midfielder to a centre-back with an apparent ease. However, it doesn’t seem likely he’ll be at the heart of the club’s back four until he hangs up his boots, per Argentinian publication Clarin (h/t Football Espana):
I don’t think that’s going to happen [on retiring at Barca].
A time will come when my age won’t let me continue meeting the club’s demands. Playing 60 to 70 games a season isn’t easy.
I’ll have to play for a team who are more in line with the demands I can meet physically. I’ll see how far I can go. I’m grateful to be here.
The best years of my career were spent at Barcelona, but being here doesn’t allow you to relax.
The demand is such that it takes you to the limit.
At the moment, Mascherano remains a regular starter for Luis Enrique’s side, with his dynamic defensive style a brilliant foil for his usual centre-back partner Gerard Pique. Here is a look at what the 31-year-old is capable of at his very best:
Mascherano is a player who just loves defending. There’s an enthusiasm in his play that seems to rub off on those around him, and while the array of attacking talent Barcelona possesses typically hogs the headlines, his tenacious tackling, tracking of runners and leadership at the base of the team is so important.
As Squawka Football illustrated recently, the former Liverpool player is an expert distributor, too, no doubt assisted by his previous stint as a midfielder:
PASS MAP: Javier Mascherano has completed 98% of his passes so far.— Squawka Football (@Squawka) January 30, 2016
Almost perfect distribution. pic.twitter.com/YpccbhZVuJ
It’d be intriguing to see where the defender would potentially go next. One option could well be the side where he began his career, River Plate, with the club’s president, Rodolfo D’Onofrio, stating recently that when he asked Mascherano about returning “he looked at me with a knowing smile and did not deny anything,” per Clarin (h/t James Whaling of the Daily Mirror).
It’s a realistic approach from Mascherano, who seems to be ready to step aside when the time comes. However, for the time being, there’s not likely to be any let up in his performances at the Camp Nou, as he seeks to help this team secure another trio of major titles in the final knockings of what has been a stellar campaign for Barcelona.
When he does walk away, regardless of when that is, there will be plenty of clubs willing to land a player who is versatile, defensively focused and who possesses a steely winning mentality. After all, just because you aren’t good enough to nail down a regular place in this brilliant Blaugrana side, it does not necessarily render you a below par player.