Former Barcelona defender Javier Mascherano has said that he is extremely grateful for his time at the club, adding that he has been lucky enough to play under some of the best coaching in the sport.
Mascherano, who joined Barcelona in the summer of 2010 from Liverpool, has had some of the best teachers in Rafael Benitez, Pep Guardiola and Luis Enrique among others.
And now he wants to incorporate all the learnings in his coaching career.
Speaking in an extensive interview with MARCA, the former defender/midfielder said,
“I’ve been lucky enough to have had some very good coaches, many of them with a different way of seeing and thinking about football.
“What I’ve tried to do is to take the ideas that I shared from all of them and try to generate my own.”
“It’s clear that my time at Barcelona has marked me a lot when it comes to the leading role of a team, to go in search of the ball, to look for the goal. You try to transmit all that.”
The 39-year-old reveals that he is now working with youth teams in Argentina and as part of his teaching, he is trying to give his players as much creative freedom as they wish.
“I’m working with the youth teams in Argentina.
“I’m trying to give the player freedom, so that the player, as he is in the middle of his development, feels the peace of mind of being able to play and express himself in the best way possible,” he explained.
Judging by how he approaches his coaching tenure, questions regarding Guardiola were bound to be asked. While speaking about it, he added,
“Pep is the best coach that many of us have had. He is a coach who has influenced football in an extraordinary way, he has influenced a lot of his players.
“We can do similar things because of what his teams do, but it’s crazy to copy him.”
He further added that on a personal level, he likes to play the kind of football where his team has more control of the ball.
“The way I see football, I like a team to be able to control the game and if this is through possession and playing in the opposition’s half.”
Mascherano’s former teammate, Xavi, now has the reigns of the Blaugrana entity and according to him, the main man is doing a good job.
“He [Xavi] has been very good. He came at a difficult time, it was a team that had been battered, and he started from scratch. The fact that we were able to win La Liga is a boost to keep building on that,” he said.
In the span of six months, Lionel Messi and Guardiola have won the epitome of international and club football, namely the FIFA World Cup and the UEFA Champions League respectively. When talking about it, he said,
“In my opinion, it wouldn’t have made much difference if it hadn’t happened. It makes me happy because they are two people I admire and love very much.”
Upon asking if Messi has the same recognition in Argentina that he has in Barcelona, the 39-year-old said, “Without a doubt, I think he has come to have it not only in Argentina but in the entire world.
“After what happened with Argentina in the World Cup and what he has achieved during the World Cup, he has already settled any debate, of the few that remained.
“The reality is that now he is seen enjoying everything that happens to him widely.
“He controls everything that happens on the pitch and that’s why in my view, or from what I’ve seen, he’s the greatest player my eyes have ever seen,” he added.
Lastly, Mascherano is of the idea that every decision a player makes is extremely personal and judging by the look of things, Messi seems very happy in Miami as not only is he enjoying football, but he is equally enjoying life with his family.
“Messi’s decision to go to Miami? Decisions are always very personal. I’m not the one who has to evaluate it, but it seems to me that he is very happy, not only enjoying football but enjoying life and family,” he concluded.