From Messi's recommendation to club legend - Barcelona will miss Mascherano

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The Argentine's arrival from Liverpool in 2010 didn't seem necessary, but he adapted to a new position and leaves seven seasons on as a Blaugrana icon

It was an ominous start. Javier Mascherano made his Barcelona debut in a shock 2-0 defeat against Hercules at Camp Nou in September 2010, playing poorly in the first half before being substituted at the interval. At that point, his seemed a strange signing.

Back then, Barca's brilliant midfield trio of Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Sergio Busquets was in its prime. The Catalan club did not really need another defensive midfielder. However, coach Pep Guardiola had other ideas.

It later emerged that Lionel Messi had alerted Guardiola and the Barca board to the possibility of signing his international team-mate, who had been at Liverpool since early 2007 and arrived at Camp Nou in August 2010 for a fee of €24 million.

“During the World Cup in 2010, Barcelona needed to replace Yaya Toure and I told Leo that I’d love to be considered," Mascherano said later on.

“He talked to Guardiola who said: ‘But Mascherano won’t get a game if he comes here! ‘How can I put Argentina’s captain on the bench?’

"But I told Leo to tell Pep that I wasn’t the kind of player who causes problems. I remember being called to his office in the Ciudad Deportiva soon after I signed."

Probably by way of motivation, Pep told Mascherano something similar to his face when he arrived. But by the end of the season and despite his inauspicious start against Hercules, the Argentine midfielder had made 45 appearances for the Blaugrana.

Most of those came in defence as captain Carles Puyol spent time on the sidelines through injury and so impressive was Mascherano in this new role that he started alongside Gerard Pique in the Champions League final against Manchester United at Wembley.

Guardiola was quickly converted by the Argentine's leadership qualities and his determination to succeed in any position. "I wouldn't ever sell him," Pep said in 2012. "He's a unique signing and we are very happy to have him."

Mascherano quote

Luis Enrique also praised the player when he was unveiled in the summer of 2014. Asked about the Argentine, he told the media: "Mascherano is like Xavi. He is very important, also because of his personality on and off the pitch. He is clear example of what a captain can be."

And that was evident during the Asturian's three-year tenure. Whenever Barca scored, their players could all be seen in a huddle celebrating together. Except for one: Mascherano. He was usually over on the sidelines receiving instructions from Luis Enrique.

Such players are invaluable and Mascherano was very much a captain without an armband in his spell at Camp Nou, where he played mostly out of his natural position but racked up 334 appearances and ended up with 18 major trophies (including four league titles and two Champions League crowns).

It is perhaps a measure of the man that team-mates past and present were in attendance in a special event organised by Barca to say goodbye on Wednesday - Messi, Puyol, Busquets and Eric Abidal among them.

"Masche, after so many matches and moments together, words are not enough," Messi wrote on social media. "You know I'm going to miss you, it will be strange to come to the dressing room and not see you sitting by my side."

Leo Messi, Javier Mascherano

Former Barca team-mate Xavi sent in a video message in which he said: "I just wanted to thank you for everything you've given to the club. I think you've been an incredible example of what it means to be a team-mate and a professional.

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"I think a lot of foreigners who come to play for Barca should follow your example, how you adapted, and the mark you made on the dressing room, above all on a personal level and, of course, on a professional level, too."

That just about says it all. Mascherano is indeed an extraordinary example, a player who looked like he may not have the technique to succeed at Barca, but one who leaves some seven-and-a-half seasons later as a club legend.

And given his qualities as a communicator, his impressive tactical knowledge and desire to learn, don't be surprised to see him back as a coach at Camp Nou one day.

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