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Javier Mascherano has a curious and surprising career with the Argentine national team: he won his first senior cap even before he played a single first team club game. Marcelo Bielsa handed him his debut on July 16, 2003 at just 19 years of age, and only a month later would he play his first match for River Plate.
Mascherano’s impact on Argentine football was immediate and devastating, especially with the national side. Bielsa not only employed him as his midfield destroyer, but also gave him a leading role in launching an attack. Thus was created his trademark one-two combination, his ability to recover the ball first before instigating the first pass in attack, a combination that has allowed the Albicelestes to start a quick counter-attack to catch their opponents off guard.
Since then, ‘El Jefecito’ has matured even more, and after signing for Brazilian side Corinthians along with his compatriot Carlos Tevez, he moved to England where he perfected his style of play, first at West Ham then at Liverpool.
He has a great physical presence and is an expert in ball recovery. He frequently helps out the team in attack, often breaking forward with great speed and surprising opponents with his long-range shooting.
With the Argentine national team, meanwhile, Mascherano continues to impress and he was instrumental in leading his side to the 2004 and 2008 Olympic gold medal in Athens and Beijing respectively. From the first day he pulled on the Albiceleste shirt, he has been irreplaceable and continues to be under Maradona, who has given him the captain’s armband. And Maradona himself remarked on El Jefecito’s role in his set-up: “The team is Mascherano plus ten others.”
Did you know?
Mascherano was a central figure in a secret commercial that caused a stir on the internet. In it, a fictional journalist called Luis Dapelo conducted an investigation to find out what gives Mascherano the footballer his power and performance on the pitch and he came to the conclusion that an engine of a car was implanted inside his body. The commercial, by Fiat, caused great confusion as it was convincingly researched and shot.
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