Mascherano hints at EPL

Barcelona, Feb 20 (IANS) Spanish football giants Barcelona defensive midfielder Javier Mascherano said he could make a return to the English Premier League 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.

Barcelona travel to England next week to face Arsenal in the UEFA Champions League and the focus will be on Leo Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar when they touchdown on Monday.

Mental toughness is the one quality he believes underpins the domination of European football.

“Great players are very good technically but they also have a huge amount of character, because without it you will never get to see that great technique because it vanishes under pressure. I have had so many team-mates who have been technically better than me. But they have lacked that desire and mental strength. This team has that,” the Argentine said.

When asked about the reigning European Champions’ 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, the side already had the best midfield unit in the world with Iniesta and Xavi Hernandez flanking Busquets, 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.

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