Could he leave Anfield?
Mascherano was heavily linked with a move to Barcelona this summer after two seasons at Anfield and the club’s sporting director, Txiki Begiristain, alluded earlier this week to his intention to seal moves for the Argentine and Cesc Fàbregas, the Arsenal captain, next summer.
The Liverpool manager spoke to both Begiristain and Pep Guardiola, the Barcelona manager, over the summer, but no bid was formally lodged, and sources at Liverpool believe the Catalan side would not have been able to match the £40 million Benítez would want to part with the player.
Even with Barcelona hovering, though, Benítez is adamant he will not be corralled into handing improved terms to Mascherano, whose deal expires in 2011.
This follows a summer in which his commitment to Liverpool was questioned and an unconvincing start to the season interrupted by a call-up to help his national side in their hour of need.
“He is a key player for us and will be during the season,” said Benítez, who insisted that Mascherano, still recovering from a pelvic injury sustained on international duty, has been “working really hard in training” since returning from Argentina last week.
“He has two more years left on his contract and we would like to keep him,” he added. “If we need to talk to him, we will, but he has enough time and he has to play to the level he was before and we will be pleased with him.
“It was difficult for him at West Ham and I remember when I met him he was a little bit low, but as soon as he saw the possibility of coming here he was really pleased. Since then, since his first day, his commitment has been really good.
“Javier has been good for the club and we have been good for him. Thanks to Liverpool he is captain of Argentina, and we have to have the best from him if we want to win more games.” (Daily Telegraph)
I have a sneaky feeling that Javier may well push for a move to the Bernabeu next summer and I am not sure Rafa will stand in his way. He tried to keep Xabi Alonso as the Real Madrid interest began to take hold but his battling was in vain and we lost a very good player but at least the Spanish player had a decent excuse to push for his transfer as Benitez had tried to offload him just the previous summer so I had no qualms with him wanting to make a return to La Liga, however Mascherano’s situation is far less straightforward.
His performances for us this term haven’t been a patch on his brilliant displays last term and many have felt, possibly correctly, that this could be down to Mascherano being unsettled by the speculation about Barcelona’s confirmed interest in our midfield battler.
Against Tottenham and Aston Villa it looked like his mind, and possibly, his heart were not in the game and it wouldn’t surprise me if when the Nou Camp outfit come calling again that he could request a move, at which point our boss will have some thinking to do.