Javier Mascherano has won 13 trophies at Barcelona and is highly regarded as one of the most talented and well-respected footballers in the world.
One man Mascherano thanks for his success is…Nicklas Bendtner?
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In an interview with The Guardian, Mascherano looked back on one tackle he made on Bendtner in 2011, and how it changed his career.
At the time, Bendter was playing for Arsenal. Barcelona held a 4-3 aggregate lead over the Gunners in the last 16 of Champions League play, when Bendtner moved in on goal in stoppage time with a chance to advance.
Mascherano, who at the time was a midfielder, made a crucial sliding tackle to block Bendtner’s shot, and Barcelona won the match. They would go on to win the Champions League title that season.
After that challenge, Mascherano transitioned from midfield to defense and has been a first-choice center-back at Barca ever since.
That tackle marked a before and after.
Honestly, after five, six months I thought it was unlikely I’d be here long: my characteristics seemed to go against everything Barcelona stood for. That moment marked me.
If Bendtner had controlled the ball and gone the other way, he’d have got away from me and … uffff! … I don’t know what would’ve happened. But it happened the way it happened and we ended up winning that Champions League. Things worked out well.
Mascherano has developed into a top defender for Barcelona, continuously making timely tackles and using vision from his midfield days to spread the ball around the pitch. He is also extremely versatile, one of the standout players for Argentina in the 2014 World Cup as a midfielder.