Rafael Benitez has already expressed his frustration over Javier Mascherano having to travel ridiculous distances in order to play an international friendly for Argentina. We can therefore only imagine what the Spaniard thinks about his midfielder’s desire to compete in the 2008 Olympic Games. The Daily Mail reports that Monster Masch is keen to jet off to Beijing to help his nation win the gold medal again, despite this clashing with the start of the 2008/9 domestic season.
“It is a difficult situation,” Mascherano said. “It’s very important for any footballer to win the Olympics.”
FIFA rules state anyone selected must travel, even if they are one of the three over-23 players allowed.
Mascherano, who turns 24 in June, added: “I know that Liverpool has a big game around when I have to go, but we will decide with the manager.
“We didn’t talk about this because we had big games but now we have time. I want to play for my country.”
Benitez is unlikely to be particularly understanding with regard to his player’s request. After all, many footballers completely shelve their international career these days in order to pursue a successful career with their club. While it’s clear that playing for Argentina is very important to Mascherano, we are not talking about a World Cup qualifier here, or even the Copa America. The Olympics has never traditionally been a big footballing occasion and the midfielder’s absence is hardly the best way to start a campaign when you’re aiming to challenge for the league.