Javier Mascherano confirmed he has played his final game in the Argentina kit following the defeat to France on Saturday.
The 34-year-old has dropped back into a centre-back role in club football, especially after his move to Barcelona. For Argentina at this World Cup, he marshaled the midfield. He's had his ups and downs at this tournament, giving away a penalty against Nigeria, but also staying on the pitch despite a head injury and leading his team to victory.
A true leader
The San Lorenzo native may not have been the captain of this side, but he was definitely a leader of men. Mascherano was prone to saving his best performances for the national team. This can be evidenced by him scoring as many goals for Argentina as all his clubs combined.
Despite his legs deserting him and looking as if he was struggling at points, he still gave his all for Argentina, but it wasn't enough. It's fair to say that win or lose, this would be
Barcelona judged the Argentinian veteran surplus to requirements and recognized that he has been looking off the pace at the top level. Mascherano was shipped off the Hebei China Fortune for £4.8 million in January to earn his last big paycheck.
The Chinese Super League is reaching a point where there are multiple big names on most teams, so Mascherano has been playing alongside Ezequiel Lavezzi, Hernanes, Gervinho, and Gael Kakuta, being managed by former Wales head coach Chris Coleman.
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End of an era
With Mascherano's experience on the top level and leadership on the pitch, we can definitely expect him to make his mark on the managerial level, but seeing what the pressure did to Jorge Sampaoli, he might be cautious before taking charge of the national team.
Mascherano's retirement is set to begin an avalanche of his teammates saying goodbye to the national team. Lazio man Lucas Biglia has also announced retirement with key players such as Lionel Messi, Gonzalo Higuaín, Sergio Agüero, and Ángel Di María being all over 30 at this World Cup.
"It's time to say goodbye and for the younger players to step in," said Mascherano at the press conference. "From this point on I will be just another fan of the Argentina national team. It is over. The illusion is shattered."