It's hard to stand out in a team as star-studded as the one that Pep Guardiola assembled while in charge of Barcelona, meaning several incredibly talented players somehow flew under the radar.
Javier Mascherano was a prime example. Never the first name to mind when recalling the greats of Guardiola's Barça, Mascherano signed in 2010 and became an integral part to the club's fortunes over the next several seasons.
After leaving in 2018 and spending a season in China before returning to Argentina at the beginning of 2020 with Estudiantes, the legendary utility man has decided to hang up his boots at the age of 36 after 640 club appearances and 147 international caps, which makes him the most-capped Argentine to date. He also managed to rack up 23 major honours along the way. Not bad.
It's been a glittering career filled with highs, lows, and an interesting stint in England for Mascherano, who is adored by many for his warrior-like attitude and tactical versatility. Here are some of El Jefe's best moments across an incredible 17 years.
1. First International Cap
Mascherano's first international cap of an eventual 147 was an interesting one.
He actually earned full international honours for Argentina before he had made his senior debut at River Plate. After stellar performances in the youth ranks, he was drafted into the national side and made his debut in 2003 against Uruguay in a friendly.
Considering that he's now the most capped Argentine ever, it wasn't a bad choice taking a risk on the youngster.
2. Olympic Hero
As well as holding the most caps for Argentina, Mascherano has helped his country to two gold medals at the Olympics.
They won in Greece in 2004 and retained the medal four years later in China, both of which he was called up for.
He didn't do it with a broken neck like Kurt Angle did in 1996, but it still remains a hell of an achievement and a rare one of footballers.
3. Moving to England
By the time Mascherano had packed his bags in preparation for the big move to Europe, he'd built up enough of a reputation to see him linked with the likes of Real Madrid and other top clubs.
It came as a shock to everyone when he announced his arrival on the continent by signing with West Ham.
West Ham's infamous deal to bring both Mascherano and Carlos Tevez to east London in 2006 will never be forgotten, with it ending in tears for Irons fans. Third-party ownership eventually saw the club fined a whopping £5.5m and Mascherano picked up by Liverpool in early 2007.
He didn't mind, though; he impressed enough to earn a move to the Reds in swift fashion and it was the start of a glistening spell in Europe.
4. Anfield Icon
Mascherano was only a Liverpool player for little over three years, but the fact he became so quickly adored on the red side of Merseyside is testament to just how good he was in the shirt.
Sitting in the midfield alongside Xabi Alonso and Steven Gerrard, Mascherano allowed his two colleagues to flourish and became a fan favourite in no time with passionate performances, including a man of the match display against rivals Manchester United in 2008.
It was short and sweet, but sometimes it has to be that way. Perhaps that's why he was such a hit at Liverpool.
5. Argentina Captaincy
After finding success at the Olympics and impressing on a personal level at the 2006 World Cup, Mascherano had already racked up an impressive CV with the national team.
Incoming head coach Diego Maradona was keen to make him captain and did so in November 2008. Mascherano then led the side into the 2010 World Cup as captain, filling the boots of Javier Zanetti.
6. Signing for Barcelona
Mascherano signed for Barcelona in 2010 to fulfil his destiny and finally make good on the rumours that had linked him to a move to a European heavyweight for years at this point.
And while he initially struggled to adjust to the jump up in levels, he proved his worth over time and became a key piece of the puzzle at the Camp Nou.
Now we're not saying it was explicitly his fault, but Liverpool hiring Roy Hodgson in 2010 might just have played a part in pushing through the move.
7. Tackling Nicklas Bendtner
What happens when an unstoppable force meets an immoveable object? There can only be one winner, and that was Mascherano. Obviously.
The Argentine credits a crunching challenge on Arsenal forward Nicklas Bendtner during his first season in Spain as the tackle that changed his fortunes and pushed him onto greatness with the club.
Speaking to the Guardian in 2016, Mascherano revealed that 'that tackle marked a before and after'. Barcelona completed a round of 16 comeback against Arsenal in the Champions League and went on to win the competition that season.
8. Painful 2014 World Cup Semi-Final Heroics
There's busting a gut to make a challenge, and then there's busting your ass. Mascherano did the latter in 2014 for his country. Literally.
After already being knocked unconscious in the World Cup semi-final against the Netherlands, Mascherano returned to the field of play and kept his side in the game by stopping a certain Arjen Robben goal with a perfect challenge that resulted in a torn anus. Ouuuuch.
Mascherano's brave challenge saw his side advance to the final on penalties, and although they were eventually eclipsed by Germany, there's no denying the effort that went in. Performances don't come more passionate than that.
9. First and Last Barcelona Goal
'El Jefecito' finally scored his one and only goal for Barcelona in 2017 when he was given the task of putting away a penalty with his side already 5-1 up against Osasuna.
Cool, calm and collected, it's a shame he wasn't given penalty duties earlier.
Source : 90min