Javier Mascherano departed River Plate and Argentinian club football in 2005 but after over 14 years away, the former Argentina captain is returning with a move to Estudiantes de la Plata.
Club president Juan Sebastián Verón, a former Albiceleste teammate, travelled to Beijing to close the deal. With Mascherano’s contract at Hebei China Fortune expiring, the 35-year-old will move to La Plata at the end of the year as a free agent.
“We have travelled 19,000km to welcome Javier to the Pincha family. Estudiantes is your home, Mascherano,” the club wrote on its official Twitter account as Verón sat for dinner with the midfielder.
The Estudiantes icon could barely contain his excitement in an accompanying video, “We have come all the way to Beijing to see a great friend and a great footballer, Javier. Now we are going to have dinner, a big hug to everyone in La Plata.”
Estudiantes will play a first home game at their new stadium next Saturday against Atlético Tucumán and if the return to the historic Estadio Jorge Luis Hirschi weren’t reason to cheer enough for supporters, the arrival of a figure like Mascherano will only serve as a boost in 2020.
Now 35 years of age after two years in the Chinese Super League since leaving Barcelona, Mascherano holds the record number of appearances for Argentina. Despite retiring from international football after the calamitous 2018 World Cup campaign, El Jefecito remains one of the most respected players of recent generations.
Having made his international bow in 2003 before even making his River Plate senior debut, it was expected for a long time that at some point Mascherano would return to the Monumental. At 19 and after only 72 appearances for River, Mascherano departed Argentinian football for Corinthians and and his illustrious club career began.
One league title in Brazil, a brief spell at West Ham United and a couple of seasons with Liverpool before a £17 million transfer to Barcelona, where Mascherano would spend a trophy-laden eight years. Five La Ligas and two Champions Leagues among 19 major titles won at the Camp Nou.
After 52 games with Hebei China Fortune in two seasons, Mascherano is clearly not the player he once was but all that experience could be of great value to Estudiantes.
Current manager Gabriel Milito, an old teammate from Barcelona and the national team, knows exactly what Mascherano can offer in the dressing room and with Estudiantes currently in eighth in the Superliga, El Jefecito can help to inspire a number of the younger players in the squad.