Javier Mascherano says he has Nicklas Bendtner to thank for how his Barcelona career ultimately panned out.
Speaking to the Guardian, Mascherano explained how he did not expect longevity at Barca – only for a last-ditch tackle against Arsenal in the 2010-11 Champions League to save his career at Camp Nou and result in his conversion from defensive midfield to central defence.
“That tackle marked a before and after,” he began.
“Honestly, after five, six months I thought it was unlikely I’d be here long: my characteristics seemed to go against everything Barcelona stood for.
“That moment marked me. If Bendtner had controlled the ball and gone the other way, he’d have got away from me and… I don’t know what would’ve happened.
“But it happened the way it happened and we ended up winning that Champions League. Things worked out well.
“I actually played that game in midfield; it was Busquets who played at centre-back.
“But from then on, I played at centre-back: that tackle changed everything. I found my position and I’ve been there all these years, trying to keep my place and keep this level.
“Until when? I don’t know because Barcelona demand a lot and have the possibility to sign whoever they want.
“Being a centre-back for Barça is not like being a centre-back for any other team.
“The areas you inhabit are very similar to those I’d inhabit playing in midfield. Often, in terms of where we press, Busquets and I are practically in the same line.
“If you make me defend in my area the whole time, then obviously I’m going to suffer because of my physical stature, but we don’t.
“The [biggest] thing that changes is that I receive the ball facing the pitch, not with my back to the play.”