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"I’m with the best club to win titles"

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01.09.2010 11:15

"I’m with the best club to win titles"

Sandra Sarmiento

Mascherano told us, "The demands of a club like Barça will help me improve as a player". The midfielder explained that he comes here “to learn from the best” and that he’s excited by the prospect of playing alongside so many World Cup winners.

Humility and ambition are the two words that characterize Barça’s latest signing. Javier Mascherano gave an interview to Barça TV at the end of a very busy first day at the Club. The captain of Argentina is anxious to learn all about his new club and is excited by this new professional challenge.

What were you willing to do to join Barça?

"There are so many things you always have to do but in the end it’s down to the club. When this chance came up I didn’t hesitate. I’ve joined the best club in the world and the best team in the world. Training alongside the players you have here at Barça is really exciting”.

I said that because the Club has thanked you for your attitude, which was vital to close the deal…

"I’d also like to thank the Club for their efforts. They’ve spent a lot of money and it was my duty to give way a bit to make this dream come true”.

Were your final days with Liverpool difficult? Did you suffer?

2010-08-30_FIRMA_37.JPG"Yes. When they started to involve my family and to say things that didn’t make sense, I obviously suffered. They’d promised me something for a whole year and they never fulfilled their promise. And that didn’t have anything to do with my family or anything else. When you read or hear lies, you obviously get angry”.

What did you learn in the Premier League and with Rafa Benítez that could help you here?

"The rhythm and dynamic in the Premier League are completely different from other leagues. And the physical contact. And Rafa Benítez taught me tactics. He’s one of the coaches who have taught me the most in my career and I’m very grateful to him. He was fundamental. He gave me the chance to join Liverpool. He had confidence in me at a time when, perhaps, nobody would have dreamed of giving me an opportunity. I’ll be grateful to him all my life”.

What’s the first thing you remember about Barça?

"People in Argentina follow European football a lot. When I was a boy, you could watch the Italian and the Spanish leagues on TV. I remember Bobby Robson’s Barça, with Ronaldo. I was a great admirer of Ronaldo because of the way he played and I followed them closely that season”.

Do you remember Guardiola as a player?

"He’s one of this club’s all-time great midfielders. He established a way of playing. After him came Xavi, Iniesta, Busquets, Fabregas, loads of players who have made it to the first team and who keep on coming, because Barça moulds players with a particular stamp. Guardiola created all this. He established a different way of playing in this position”.

What do you think of him as a coach?

2010-08-31_ENTRENAMIENTO_58.JPG"You just have to look at his achievements. As a coach you can see that he’s very sincere. He shows that in the press conferences and in the dugout. You can see he’s a professional, that he gives everything to football. I think he lives for it and from what Leo has told me I think he’s obsessed with his work. That’ll be great for me especially since he’s played in my position so I’ll learn a lot. That’s really exciting”.

Since you arrived in Barcelona on Saturday, Messi hasn’t left your side. How important will Leo and Gabi Milito be in helping you settle in?

"They’ll be very important because they’ll be the link with the rest of my team-mates. But in general, whenever I’ve joined a new team I’ve adapted to the squad very quickly and I don’t think I’ll have any problems. Especially since I know this is a great bunch of people. I think it would be difficult to have any problems with the people there are here”.

What’s the first piece of advice you’ve been given about Barça?

"To relax and enjoy myself. But obviously I know that I’m here to work hard because it’s a great team. There’s an established team with players that have been here for two or three seasons. The team’s won the lot. I’ll try and do my bit and when I play I’ll try and do my best”.

People say you get on very well with Leo Messi. How did that friendship grow up?

2010-08-30_FIRMA_31.JPG"During our time together with the Argentina national team. Our friendship has grown much stronger over the last few years. We’re been through a lot together. We’ve had some tough moments in the national team. That’s the best way to grow closer. When a group of colleagues has a difficult time and gets criticised, the best way to counteract that is to close ranks. We’re become close friends and I hope that lasts a long time in Barcelona”.

In Barcelona we’re always worried about how Messi will be when he comes back from playing with Argentina. He’s had a difficult time.

"Leo is expected to be to be the saviour. There’s no doubt that he’s the best player in the world but he can’t win matches on his own. He needs a team to support him. I think he knows that we support him in the national team and we know what he can do. But then there are the comparisons and the results. If the result isn’t good people always single him out. Leo is the biggest asset we have and unfortunately we don’t know how to enjoy him. Let’s hope people stop making comparisons and let him be Messi. Let’s let him play the way he likes”.

What surprises you most about Leo?

"His modesty. He doesn’t realise how far he’s got. And that surprises me. It’s his best quality. He’s a fantastic person who doesn’t have an arrogant word in him. At his level, that kind of modesty is worth a lot”.

Let’s get back to Barça. Are you motivated by the demands of playing here?

"It’s what will help me grow and not settle for what I have. It’s a really important challenge. You dream all your life of joining a club like this. I’ll seize this opportunity and try and stay here as long as possible”.

You haven’t won a club title since you’ve been in Europe. You must be really hungry for titles.

"On a personal level that’s one of my challenges. I haven’t had the good fortune of winning anything in Europe and I wouldn’t like to say at the end of my career that I didn’t have the opportunity. Right now Barça has players that haven’t got tired of winning. You can see that from the outside. In every game they want to keep on showing that they’re the best”.

You have the reputation of being a real character and a leader on the pitch. Is that true?

"I have my character but I’m not mad. I’m quite a calm person. Perhaps I change a bit when I’m on the pitch but to lead you have to set an example. It’s not down to me to say I’m a leader. I’ll do my best to help Barça stay on the same track”.

The Barça style is very attacking and the central midfielder has a lot of responsibility. Do you think you’ll adapt quickly?

"I’m pretty confident of it. I’ll do everything I can to adapt quickly. But when you’re surrounded by great players and a team that’s playing well, you always adapt more quickly. If you join a club like this you don’t have any excuses”.

Did you watch Barça last weekend? What did you think?

2010-08-29_P-RTIDO_04_copia.jpg"The same as always, especially in terms of attitude. A team can have good performances or bad but this team as the attitude to go out and win. There were moments when they didn’t have possession but they were always up for it and that shows the ambition these players have to keep on winning”.

Did you keep a close eye on Sergio Busquets?

"I did because he’s a great player. In spite of his age, he’s already got a lot of experience. He’s a world champion. He’s been a very important player for Barça over the last year and a half and I try and watch and learn from the best. Busquets is doing a good job so I’ll try and watch him and support myself on him. This isn’t a fight between Busquets and Mascherano. In no way whatsoever. It’s a long season, there are a lot of matches and we have to be ready when it’s our turn”.

With Argentina you play alongside the best player in the world, but what does it mean to play with Puyol, Xavi, Iniesta and Villa?

"It’s incredibly exciting because they’re great players who make difficult football seem simple. What I’m most excited about is learning from them. I’m coming here to learn and to be a better player. This move has to enable me to say in two or three years that I’m a better player than when I arrived”.
Photos: Miguel Ruiz (FCB).
Photos: Miguel Ruiz (FCB).

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Real Madrid and the Camp Nou
Are you looking forward to playing against Real Madrid?

"It’s one of those matches we all want to play. But there’s a long way to go before “el clásico”. The first thing I have to do is train with my team-mates, settle in as fast as possible and enjoy all of this”.

You played a big role in the 4-0 defeat of Real Madrid in the Champions League. Was it one of your best matches with Liverpool?

"It was one of Liverpool’s best matches in the last few years. It’s always special to take on a great team with so much history like Real Madrid. And thanks to God it was a perfect performance – everything we tried came off. It was a performance that people still remember”.

¿Does the number 14 shirt have special significance?

"I’m not superstitious about numbers but there were 3 or 4 choices and as I wear the number 14 with Argentina I decided on that one”.

Camp Nou will be your new home. How do feel about playing a stadium like this?

"It’s a temple. It’s marvellous. Impressive. I’ll try and enjoy myself. When you step out onto the pitch and see 98,000 people you feel really proud that so many people have come to watch you. I’ll try and enjoy this stadium as I did Anfield".

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