Mascherano hints at EPL return

Barcelona, Feb 20 (IANS) Spanish football giants Barcelona’s defensive midfielder Javier Mascherano said he could make a return to the English Premier League (EPL) in the near future if any club shows interest in him.

Mascherano, who joined Barcelona from Liverpool in 2010, said he doesn’t think that Pep Guardiola — his former coach at Barcelona — will call him to Manchester City next season.

“No, no, Pep is not going to call me. He will not call me, no, no, no. My feeling for Liverpool does not mean I’m tied to them. If in the future a Premier League team was interested in me and I had the chance to go back, you can’t say: ‘No, I would only play for one team’. I don’t know what I would do,” Mascherano was quoted as saying by The Independent on Friday.

When asked about the Barcelona’s big three upfront, he made it clear that besides Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez, the other players like Sergio Busquets, Andres Iniesta and Gerard Pique have delivered equally for the team.

“What is so special here is that the players — and not just the three up-front but players such as Sergio Busquets, Andres Iniesta and Gerard Pique — have been winning all there is to win for so many years, and yet they still have that hunger for more,” he said.

“Even just a little bit of praise can weaken you. So imagine when there is not just the praise but the medals on the table too. But these players have marked out the route and those that join the club are obliged to follow in their footsteps,” the 31-year-old added.

When he joined Barcelona, Mascherano was a midfielder. But the side already had a strong midfield unit with Iniesta and Xavi Hernandez flanking Busquets which forced the then manager to use him in the defence.

When asked if it was always a plan to become a defender, Mascherano said, “No, no, no. I had no idea. And sincerely, after five or six months of being here it looked as if I would not be staying for very long. My strengths seemed to be in complete contrast to the style of the team.”

“Throughout my whole career I have been a physical player who contains the opposition; a defensive player who doesn’t get involved in the attack. But here the style of play is to always go on the attack,” he added.

Mascherano has won 13 titles at Barcelona, including three Spanish leagues, two Champions Leagues and two Club World Cups. He has been a regular in Barcelona’s starting line-up for the last five years, during which he has played 265 matches.

But tough-tackling Argentine admitted that he felt that he had no future with the Catalan giants when he first arrived at the Nou Camp. It was a superb tackle on Arsenal striker Nicklas Bendtner during a Champions League pre-quarterfinal clash in March 2011 that helped him prove his value to the Barcelona coaching staff.

“Honestly, after five, six months I thought it was unlikely I’d be here long: my characteristics seemed to go against everything Barcelona stood for. That moment marked me. If Bendtner had controlled the ball and gone the other way, he’d have got away from me and… uffff! … I don’t know what would’ve happened. But it happened the way it happened and we ended up winning that Champions League. Things worked out well,” he said.

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