Barcelona defensive-minded utilitarian Javier Mascherano has revealed that without Lionel Messi he may never have had the chance to play for Barca, insisting that his fellow countryman played a huge role in his move to the club over seven years ago.
The 33-year-old made the switch from Liverpool to the La Liga giants back in 2010 in a deal worth around £18m, and since then has gone on to become a key feature in the club's history.
The Argentina international was instrumental within the Catalan outfit as they blitzed teams both domestically and in the Champions League, claiming on average two trophies for each campaign he has spent with the club.
However, Mascherano has admitted without teammate Messi holding conversations with then-boss Pep Guardiola, he may never have been afforded the chance to become one of the world's greats.
"During the 2010 World Cup I heard that Yaya Toure was leaving and that they were looking for a midfielder, so I told Leo that I would love to play at Barca", the ex-Liverpool and West Ham United man told Argentine magazine El Grafico.
"Leo spoke with Guardiola and Pep's response was: He's coming here, he's not going to play. How do I have the captain of the Argentine National Team in the bank?
"'You're going to get mad, Gaby Milito will get angry and we'll all end up fighting'. That's what Pep told Leo.
"I told Leo to explain to Pep that I was not like that, that I was not going to make him look bad, that it was not about making problems with the coaches.
“At that moment Inter's interest appeared with Rafa Benitez, who had directed me in Liverpool, and he could not take me.
"A time passed and one of those circumstances that changed your life forever: in August, Barcelona lost the first final of the Supercopa with Sevilla, without the Spanish world champions, and it turned out to be the Pep's last touch of conviction to take me, so answering your question: Leo influenced a lot [for me] to go to Barca."
But Mascherano also revealed that things could have been very different, and that Barcelona's fiercest rivals Real Madrid also showed interest in his signature earlier in his career.
"I do not know how close, but there was a contact from the sports director with my representative in 2004, when he was at the Olympics in Athens, and I do not know what happened", he added.