What has become of Javier Mascherano

What has become of Javier Mascherano?

(CNN Spanish) — Since his retirement as a professional footballer in 2020, the Argentine Javier Mascherano has not left the world of football. But now he has another role: he is the technical director of the Argentine Under 20 team since January 2022.

Mascherano, a leading figure in international football, who has been described as a key player for Argentina and the “heart of the best Barça in history”, was once praised by Diego Maradona himself as an “exceptional” player, saying that the Argentine team was “Mascherano and 10 more”.

“When I said ‘Mascherano and 10 more’, some laughed; today they cannot laugh,” Maradona said back in 2009 about Mascherano, who years later would say that Diego’s words ended up weighing on him in the long run: “I was 24 years, I wasn’t prepared to be a captain or to manage a group”.

But yes, he said that he always thanked Maradona for that enormous trust that he placed in him.

Carlos Tévez, Javier Mascherano and Lionel Messi in training with Diego Maradona on June 3, 2010 in Pretoria at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. (Credit: DANIEL GARCIA/AFP via Getty Images)

Now, from the courts, the ‘Jefecito’ has entered a new stage in his life as coach of the Sub 20, a “very special” place, he says, which is now his home and which has already borne its first fruits. Those led by Mascherano were crowned champions of the COTIF International Tournament in August 2022 in Spain, where he was recognized as the best coach of the tournament. The Argentine Sub 20 team was also crowned champion of the Maldonado Intendency Cup, a friendly tournament played in Uruguay, in September of this year.

“We are obviously working to train players and with the vision that they play in the senior team. So beyond competing, which is our obligation… we must not forget that we are trainers of players, of people, that the Tomorrow we want them to play in the senior team,” said the now DT of the Argentine Sub 20.

Mascherano, now a coach, describes himself as a calmer person, “less impulsive, less sanguine” and says that now as DT he must have “a coldness to decide moments, things” on the pitch, something that his age and experience have given him throughout his career.

Mascherano and his team participated in the 2022 South American Games, although with not very encouraging results.

Mascherano during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia group D match between Nigeria and Argentina at Saint Petersburg Stadium on June 26, 2018 in Saint Petersburg, Russia. (Getty Images)

“A key piece of Argentina”

Javier Mascherano was an emblem and is a symbol in the Argentine national team with which he won two Olympic medals.

In his personal career in clubs, he won two Champions League and multiple titles.

He is one of the players with the most games played in the Argentine senior team (147), after Lionel Messi (165 until the start of Qatar) and was a key player in the senior national team to which he was cited in 2003 when he had not yet made his debut in River Plate’s first division. With the albiceleste he played between 2003 and 2018, this last year as a substitute. That, the one in Russia, was the last World Cup he was called up to.

Mascherano was a leader on the field and key to the team’s spirit. In 2010 he was the captain of the national team and in 2014, when the bracelet already belonged to Messi, the cameras captured him giving the decisive motivational harangue to the goalkeeper Sergio Romero in the penalty shootout in the semifinal against the Netherlands: “Today you become a hero,” he told him. And so it was: Romero saved two penalties and Argentina reached the World Cup final in Brazil.

He began his professional career as a soccer player with River Plate, one of the two most popular teams in Argentina. “River is my home, I got there at the age of 15 and I was trained as a player and as a person,” said ‘El jefecito’, as he is known at FC Barcelona.

Javier Mascherano of FC Barcelona plays the ball during the Joan Gamper Trophy match between FC Barcelona and Chapecoense at Camp Nou stadium on August 7, 2017 in Barcelona, ​​Spain. (Credit: Alex Caparrós/Getty Images)

He was a professional player for River between 2003 and 2005. Then he went to Corinthians in Brazil for one season.

In 2007 he began his journey through European football at West Ham in England where “he didn’t even play in the reserve team”, according to Rafa Benítez, the Liverpool coach between 2005 and 2010, who signed him to show “that he could to be able to play for a big England (team).

“Little by little he made his place until he was totally fundamental for the team. Irreplaceable,” said the Spanish Fernando Torres, one of his Liverpool teammates, where he played in the 2008/2010 seasons.

‘Masche’ came to FC Barcelona from English Liverpool in 2010. There he won 18 titles with Barça, and played 334 games. He was under the command of 5 coaches: Pep Guardiola, Tito Vilanova, Tata Martino, Luis Enrique and Ernesto Valverde.

After a very productive period at Barcelona, ​​the native Argentine San Lorenzo stepped aside.

“The passage of time has been an indicator, it was losing prominence and it was becoming more and more difficult for me,” said the Argentine at his farewell in 2018.

From there he went to Hebei, in the Chinese first division, where he was in the 2018/2020 season. He spent a brief season with the Estudiantes de la Plata club until his retirement in November 2020, ending his 17-year stint playing in elite world soccer. He now seeks to reconquer the fields in his career as a coach.