Javier Mascherano reveals he tries to think like a Coach, accepts why the Barcelona forwards get the headlines and thanks Rafa Benitez.
Mascherano was speaking to the Gazzetta dello Sport and repeated comments made a few months ago thanking Rafa Benitez for rescuing his career when he was in the doldrums at West Ham and taking him to Liverpool.
“I was hardly playing in London. It was my first experience of Europe. Then Rafa appeared and people didn’t understand why,” he recalled of the now-Real Madrid Coach, Marca reports.
“He already had players such as Xabi Alonso, Mohamed Sissoko and Steven Gerrard. He told me none of those three had my qualities.
“He’s a great man, intelligent and an excellent Coach. I’ll always be grateful to him for getting me out of that 20-metre pit.”
Masche later left Anfield for Camp Nou and was converted from a defensive midfielder to a centre-back by Pep Guardiola.
“A Coach can convince with complicity and affection, and with knowledge too,” the Argentina international said of his change of positions.
“Guardiola and I liked to talk about football and he taught me new concepts. It was difficult at first but it helped me grow as a player.
“At a club like Barca you have to evolve to play. It’s not enough to have talent and I’ve learned to play in a different way. I feel freer in central midfield. I suffer a lot in defence.
“I’m not like Gerard Pique, who is a pure defender and goes on to the pitch more relaxed.”
Mascherano added his take on the difficulties faced by a Coach, and considered the importance of the Barca front three of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar.
“The most difficult thing for a Coach is to manage a squad of 25 players, with different roles,” he suggested.
“The Coach has an idea of how to play, but in the end it’s the players who decide it on the pitch. I like to put myself in the Coach’s head when making decisions, to try to understand.
“In the end it’s the forwards who get the headlines as they’re the ones who are decisive. You can defend well but without that much talent in attack it’s impossible to win as much.”