Ex-Barcelona, Liverpool and Argentina star Mascherano announces retirement

Javier Mascherano Argentina 2018 World CupGetty Images

Javier Mascherano has announced his retirement from football after a glittering 17-year career across South America and Europe.

The defensive midfielder started his professional career with Argentine giants River Plate in 2003 and spent a year in Brazil with Corinthians before making the move to the Premier League.

Mascherano had a brief spell at West Ham and then three years at Liverpool before he was snapped up by Barcelona, where he enjoyed the most successful spell of his career.

After winning five La Liga titles and two Champions League crowns among a host of other trophies in his eight years at Camp Nou, he was lured to Hebei China Fortune.

The 36-year-old returned to Argentina in January this year, reuniting with former national team-mate Jaun Sebastian Veron, who is the club's chairman.

Mascherano has been a regular for the Superliga outfit and was contracted to the club until June 2021, but he has decided to hang up his boots now.

He said at a press conference: "It is time to finish my career because of things that happened to me in recent months, that on a personal level and after having thought about it for all this time, the most correct thing is to finish today.

"I have lived my profession 100 per cent, I gave the best I could and today I find that it has been difficult for me for a while and I do not want to disrespect Estudiantes, who trusted me to return to Argentina, or my colleagues, or this profession.

"It does not have to do with the club or with a result, but with feelings that one is feeling over recent times, which make the illusion that one had of being a footballer fade.

"Post pandemic, I thought that I was going to feel the spark again, but the truth is that I could not. Out of respect for everyone, it is time to step aside and end this race. I didn't want to let time go by.

"I am infinitely grateful to the clubs I played for, the team-mates I had throughout my career and to Estudiantes who gave me the opportunity to come and play in recent times. It was less than I expected, things happened this way and sometimes you don't choose the end.

"I thank [coach Leandro] Desabato, the institution and my colleagues for having put up with me this last time."