Javier Mascherano has reflected on his time at Barcelona ahead of his move to Hebai China Fortune in the January transfer window.

The Argentine international has brought to an end a seven year spell in Catalonia, during which time he won 18 major trophies.

And Mascherano has revealed that such a successful spell with Barcelona was entirely unexpected when he first arrived from Liverpool in 2010.

"Sincerely, let's say, I've been here for much longer than I thought I was going to be," he told Gerard Pique in an interview for the Players' Tribune. "I knew that I was coming to a place where it was going to be very complicated to play. For me, it's one of the best teams I've been able to see in history, and even to belong in a team like this has been fantastic.

"But I knew it was hard and I came with the mindset of being able to help in any way I could. But above all with the thought - it can sound a little selfish - of saying 'let's see if I have the chance of winning something in Europe, of being there for a few years, winning titles and belonging to a group of unique players'.

"The years passed, I found my place and we all know the way it ended."

Mascherano had been a regular at Anfield across three seasons, but things changed when Lionel Messi suggested that Pep Guardiola attempt to sign his compatriot.

"During the World Cup, it was a little crazy because I was at Liverpool and Rafa Benitez had left that summer so I had been thinking about leaving for some time," he said.

"I had been reading that Yaya Toure was leaving and that maybe they were going to need someone there. 

"Leo, I also think as a joke and a little bit serious, started talking with Pep during the World Cup. The doubts were: 'How is a player who is a starter with Liverpool, who's the captain of the national team, going to come and accept the role of not playing with continuity?'


"But I always tried to be clear on the role I came to play. It was a chance to come to Barcelona, the best Barca in history, the chance of having possibilities of winning titles, of playing with extraordinary players."

At first, there were doubts that Mascherano would fit in. He was a defensive midfielder, rugged and dependable, but not in the mould of Sergio Busquets. But he adapted to a new role as a centre-back and continued to play in that position throughout.

"In my life, I never imagined that I was going to end up playing as a defender," he added. "I adapted as I went along. Pep put me as a central defender but we hadn't even talked about it before. It was my chance. It was the only way to survive in a team like this.


"In the end, your analysis is: 'Thank God I made this decision'. I found that spot and tried to hold on to that. I've always tried to live football from a survivalist perspective."

But playing in a new position meant that, inevitably, sacrifices were made. "They were the best years of my career but I didn't get the chance to play in my position, so that's as if your glass were half empty," Mascherano added. "I had doubts about leaving because it is thankless to play as a defender in Barcelona. One mistake and you pay dearly."

On reflection, though, Mascherano will remember Barcelona as a time of success and enjoyment. "The pleasure has been mine. You arrive from outside and are able to be a part of all this. And I leave with that happiness, that's it."