Rebel Javier Mascherano Threatens Crisis at Liverpool for Roy Hodgson

Iain StrachanCorrespondent IAugust 24, 2010

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - AUGUST 19:  Javier Mascherano of Liverpool looks on from the stands during the UEFA Europa League play-off first leg match beteween Liverpool and Trabzonspor at Anfield on August 19, 2010 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Roy Hodgson faces the first real test of his authority at Liverpool in the shape of want-away midfielder Javier Mascherano.

Mascherano’s family have been unable to settle in England and the Argentina captain, who handed in a transfer request on his return to the club in July, was widely expected to join former manager Rafael Benitez at Inter.

With the transfer window drawing to a close and an offer from Inter not forthcoming, it looked as if the defensive midfielder would remain a Red for the foreseeable future, until a reported bid of 16 million pounds from Barcelona altered proceedings.

Hodgson and Liverpool have categorically stated that Mascherano would not leave for less than their 20 million-plus valuation, with Hodgson going so far as to suggest he would be willing to forcibly keep Mascherano for the remainder of his two year contract and then lose the Argentinean for nothing. 

Liverpool and Barcelona are both negotiating from weakened stances. 

The hierarchy at Anfield believe a player in an elite bracket such as Mascherano should be valued at close to 24 million and with Barcelona themselves receiving roughly the same for Yaya Toure from Manchester City, Liverpool can be forgiven for holding out.

Barcelona are compromised by the public knowledge that they posses the funds to bid what Liverpool have asked, after having an offer in excess of 30 million pounds for Cesc Fabregas turned down earlier in the summer. 

However, Liverpool will be reluctant to play hardball on the fee, in the knowledge Barcelona are unlikely to make improved bids in next year’s transfer windows, given that future resources are expected to be allocated for the continued pursuit of Fabregas.

Aside from the simple principle that they should receive full value for one of their jewels, Liverpool also have a delicate balance to maintain. 

Given the player is very unlikely to sign a new deal, if they do not conclude a transfer for Mascherano this summer, they risk being forced to sell him at a cut price in the next year or lose him for nothing.

The counter argument is that Liverpool, deeply in debt and up for sale, would have more to gain from the value Mascherano adds to the club as an asset in the short term than they would by selling him. 

Even if they receive the full 24 million, it will be a drop in the ocean of an estimated debt of 230 million.

A Liverpool benefiting from Mascherano on the pitch is a more attractive proposition to a potential buyer than a Liverpool shorn of one of their best players. 

However, such a school of thought is only tenable if Mascherano can be convinced to contribute to the team.

He was left out of the Liverpool squad to face Manchester City on Monday, with Roy Hodgson stating that "the player wasn’t in a fit state to play, his head having been turned by the Barcelona offer."

If Mascherano is denied a move and becomes a disruptive influence, he will be of no benefit to the club. 

But if Liverpool cut their losses and cash in on the apparent rebel, it will send a dangerous message to the club’s other key players, specifically Fernando Torres and Dirk Kuyt, that they too can successfully agitate for a move away from the club by going on strike.

Do Liverpool stick or twist? 

Roy Hodgson will be praying that Barcelona return with an improved offer to satisfy all parties lest the matter become the first major crisis of his tenure.