Javier Mascherano has said he does not want to repeat the mistakes he made at Liverpool so is already planning his Barcelona exit, with this likely to be his final season at Camp Nou.
Mascherano joined Barca in 2010 but has regrets about the way he pushed through his Anfield departure seven years ago after a transfer to Rafa Benitez’s Inter failed to materialise.
Barca’s interest came late in the transfer window and the Argentine had to fight to get his move, which he feels tainted his relationship with the Premier League club.
Now he wants to learn from that mistake and leave Barca on better terms.
“I think my time [at Barca] is coming to an end,” he told ESPN. “It’s logical that, after so much time, I don’t have long left at the club. But I don’t say that with any hard feelings, completely the opposite. I think I have had the most wonderful years of my career at the club. I’m never going to forget it.
“But I’m one of those people that think that you have to know when to end something. And I would like to be able to end it at the right time. That will not depend completely on me, but I’m of that inclination because when I left Liverpool it wasn’t good for me, and I didn’t like it.
“I didn’t like having the feeling that I could go back to Liverpool and there was still something toxic there. And I don’t want the same thing to happen to me at Barcelona.
“I didn’t leave Liverpool in the best manner. I didn’t like it but it was my chance. There wasn’t going to be another. A club like [Barca] doesn’t come for you two years running. If you say no, they get someone else. That’s the reality. So I fought for it and here I am.”
Mascherano originally joined Barca as cover for Sergio Busquets following Yaya Toure’s Manchester City switch, but he has plied his trade in La Liga as a centre-back.
“I have played a lot more games as a central defender than as a midfielder,” he added. “It’s an issue for me because during the best years of my career I didn’t play in the position that I like the most. All my life I have considered myself a midfielder. If I had my [own] team, I would play in a midfield role.”
It was Pep Guardiola who originally dropped Mascherano back into defence. And while he says he would prefer to play in midfield, he realises his longevity at Barca is owed to that positional change.
“Pep changed my role and didn’t give me even a chance [to prepare],” Mascherano remembered of being thrown in at the deep end in a Champions League game against Shakhtar Donetsk.
“I had zero experience in that role but it happened naturally. That’s part of evolution, to be ready to realise that in a midfield position I would have few opportunities to play.
“So I had to find a place in defence, hold onto that and fight to play more. It’s very clear to me that had that change of position not occurred, I would have been out of Barcelona many years ago.”
Samuel Marsden covers Barcelona for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @SamuelMarsden.