Before I go into the discussion, let me make it quite clear that I think Javier Mascherano is one of the finest players Barcelona has had over the past few seasons and without him the club certainly would not have won either the 2011 Champions League final and several other titles. We all remember this tackle on Nicklas Bendtner in the dying minutes of the match. Had Bendtner scored Barcelona would have gone out of the Champions League in the round of 16. Barca never looked back from that moment going to win the hotly contested semi final with Real Madrid with the famous “Puto Amo” and “Por Que” speeches by the coaches before outclassing Manchester United 3-1 in the final.
So why on earth should Barcelona consider selling a defensive rock and a man who has come to define the heart and soul of the back-line since the legendary Carles Puyol left?
1. The Player wants to Leave
Over the past few weeks it has become pretty apparent that Javier Mascherano has become unsettled at Barcelona. For whatever reason be in dressing room issues or the weight of carrying the responsibility for the Barcelona back line almost single-handedly at times, Mascherano has become unsettled. A player that is fully happy does not reportedly agree to terms with other clubs. There is always a gamble in keeping a player that is not fully focused or one that does not want to be in his current situation. Many people may say that as a multimillionaire paid to play football, once he is on the field he will give his best, however players are only human. Their emotions and mental state do play a role in how they perform and it is much better to have players that want to play at the club than those whose hearts just are not in it anymore.
2. The Ronaldinho/Vieira/Villa precident
Barcelona have always had a habit of buying high and selling low. Former Barcelona president Joan Laporta declared in his book “Un sueño para mis hijos” [A Dream for My Children]. that in 2004 his successor Sandro Rosell had approached him with a 100 million Euro offer from Chelsea for the Brazilian. The offer of course would be rejected and Barcelona went on to win 2 league titles and a Champions League title with Ronaldinho (24 at the time of the offer) at the forefront. Ronaldinho however underwent a major decline in the 2 following seasons and ended up being sold to AC Milan in 2008 for 24 million Euros or just under a quarter of what he was worth just a few years earlier. Perhaps a more similar example to the current situation however is that of Patrick Vieira. In 2004, Patrick Vieira (28 at the time) made up his mind to leave Arsenal and according to the Guardian newspaper a deal of around 30 million pounds from Real Madrid was on the table. The deal fell through at the last minute however Vieira ended up staying. At the end of the same season in 2005 Arsenal decided the Vieira era at the club was at an end and agreed to sell him, however they received only 13.75 million pounds in the deal from Juventus. Javier Mascherano is 32 years old and there is a very real likelihood that if Barcelona do not sell this summer they will not receive anything near to decent value should he leave the club. Everyone remembers the frustration felt with David Villa who was sold to Atletico Madrid for just 2.1 million euros (plus add-ons) after having an offer reportedly worth 12 million euros just 6 months earlier; nobody would like a repeat of such a case.
3.The Samper Case
Javier Mascherano has been used as a centre-back at Barcelona but he also provides cover should anything happen to Sergi Busquets who is the first choice at defensive midfield. With Sergi Samper coming through however Barcelona have a ready made replacement for Sergi Busquets as a defensive midfielder. What’s more with Barcelona linked to Samuel Umtiti in recent weeks, and Marquinos also being mentioned as an addition, the need for Mascherano to get minutes possibly in the defensive midfield position could actually limit the development of Samper for the coming season. With the “Pirlo” of the Cantera long being tipped for greatness and Arsenal lurking, it may be in Barcelona’s long term interest to ensure that he has more time with the first team this season. Should Mascherano stay and Marquinos and Umtiti join, the coach would be under real pressure to find minutes on the pitch for Mascherano which would most likely result in Samper not playing time.
4. Pique has matured
Gerard Pique has always been touted as the future leader of the Barcelona back line since his return in 2008. However after initially cementing his status as one of the better centre-backs in the world during the peak of the Guardiola years, Pique suffered a slump in form and appeared at times to be unfit and uncommitted to the cause. Even during the start of the Luis Enrique era in the 2014/2015 season he was not an undisputed starter,being a substitute in 3 of the first 6 matches. However Pique has demonstrated during the past 2 years that he is indeed back to the top of his game. One needs look no further the 2016 Copa del Rey final (where he marshaled the back line magnificently after Mascherano was sent off) to see that Barcelona can rest easy knowing that Pique will be the leader of their defence should Mascherano exit.
5. Mascherano has earned the right to choose his exit
Mascherano has given his heart and soul for FC Barcelona over the past 6 seasons being critical to 4 league titles, 3 Copa del Rey titles and 2 Champions League titles. He has run himself into the ground every season and given his all, at times holding a shaky back line together almost by himself. He has been a leader and a legend and if he comes to the club and requests to leave, the club should grant this magnificent servant a chance to leave on his terms through “the front door”. Just as David Villa was sold to allow him to get more playing time, Barcelona should take the player’s behavior and his excellent play into account should he want to leave and try to accommodate as best as possible.