The two clubs have been wrangling hard over the final transfer fee, with Barca demanding at least €10 million for the Argentinian. However, Hebei China Fortune are reluctant to pay more than €5.77 million, which would trigger a 100 per cent levy on the payment for the transfer.
The Chinese Football Association announced last June that any loss-making club in China's top two divisions that pays more than 45 million yuan (€5.77 million) for a foreign player transfer must pay the same amount to a CFA youth development fund.
The CFA made its presence felt on Tuesday by issuing a harsh warning that it would severely punish clubs who flagrantly violate its transfer rules, following reports that Guangzhou Evergrande and Beijing Guoan are engaging in a bidding war over Borussia Dortmund's Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
Sources have told Goal that Hebei China Fortune held their ground in protracted negotiations with Barcelona for fear of incurring the wrath of the CFA, and eventually managed to convince the Blaugrana to accept a fee less than €5.77 million for Mascherano.
The 33-year-old is set to earn €7m-per-year in Hebei where his compatriot Ezequiel Lavezzi and former Arsenal forward Gervinho also ply their trade.