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BARCELONA

Mascherano, the man who only planned to stay two seasons

The Argentine midfielder played his 293rd game for Barcelona against Granada on Saturday, the third-most appearances by a foreigner in the club's history.

Mascherano, the man who only planned to stay two seasons
GORKA LEIZA DIARIO AS

Manchester City - Barcelona Live!

Javier ‘El Jefecito’ Mascherano played his 293rd game for Barcelona against Granada on Saturday evening, making him the foreigner with the third-most appearances of all time for the club.

Mascherano, the foreigner with the third-most appearances of all time

Mascherano signed for Barcelona from Liverpool in 2010

Previously tied with Dutch midfielder Philip Cocu, who played for the club between 1998 and 2004, on 292 appearances, Mascherano now ranks behind just Dani Alves in second (391) and Leo Messi in first (543). The Argentine often says that he only expected to be at Barcelona for two years but is now into his seventh season. Club members gave a standing ovation during Saturday’s AGM when an image of Mascherano appeared on the screen, pleased with technical director Roberto Fernández’s recent decision to extend his contract.

He was close to leaving before Luis Enrique arrived

Just a few years ago, towards the end of Tata Martino’s ill-fated time in charge, Mascherano talked of ‘the end of a cycle.’ He was linked heavily with a move away from the club, especially to Napoli, then under the stewardship of Rafa Benítez. But like Gerard Piqué, the appointment of Luis Enrique encouraged him to stay at the club.

A key man for Luis Enrique

This summer Mascherano, who was handed a one-year sentence for tax evasion earlier this year, received an offer from Juventus to head to Turin along with teammate Dani Alves. When the club heard the news, Roberto Fernández jumped on a plane and headed to the United States where Mascherano was training with Argentina ahead of the Copa América with a mission: to convince him to stay.

Luis Enrique, one of Mascherano's biggest fans

Luis Enrique is one of Mascherano’s biggest fans. For him, the Argentine is as invaluable on the pitch as he is off it. Along with Xavi, it was his influence that calmed the storm caused by Barcelona’s chaotic defeat at Real Sociedad in January 2015 and the subsequent crisis in Luis Enrique’s and Leo Messi’s relationship.

Mascherano says that his time at the Camp Nou has been nothing short of ‘magic’ but that this will be the last contract he signs at the club. A born competitor, he’s worked his way into the Barcelona history books.

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