image

Chinese Super League

Javier Mascherano says hello to Hebei China Fortune as he swaps La Liga leaders Barcelona for new life in Chinese Super League

The 33-year-old Argentine joins up with national teammate Ezequiel Lavezzi as fans hope he could be last piece in title jigsaw for Manuel Pellegrini’s side

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 24 January, 2018, 5:54pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 25 January, 2018, 9:39am

Argentina international Javier Mascherano has officially joined Chinese Super League side Hebei China Fortune FC from Spanish side Barcelona.

The 33-year-old has been unveiled by his new club after the deal was initially announced earlier in the week by an Argentine journalist on Twitter.

“After reaching agreement with Barcelona FC and the player himself, the distinguished Argentine captain Mascherano has, starting today, officially joined Hebei China Fortune Football Club,” the club said. They did not disclose the transfer fee.

Double Uefa Champions League winner Mascherano is arguably the highest-profile signing to join the Chinese Super League and fans will hope he can help his new side break Guanghzou Evergrande’s stranglehold on the title.

Former Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini’s side finished runners-up in their debut season in 2015 but missed out on the AFC Champions League places this campaign.

Defensive midfielder turned central defender Mascherano is something of a rarity among foreign signings in the Chinese Super League, with clubs often focusing on bringing in attacking players, but his time at the top of the game winning trophies over the last seven seasons at Barcelona and amassing 141 caps for Argentina, including the last World Cup final, will offer vital experience to the Chilean’s side.

Mascherano has also played for Premier League sides Liverpool and West Ham United during his career, plus first club River Plate in Argentina and Corinthians in Brazil.

Hebei’s current foreign contingent include Mascherano’s former international teammate Ezequiel Lavezzi and ex-Premier League players Gervinho, Stephen M’Bia and Gael Kakuta, plus Brazilian duo Aloisio and Hernanes, although limits on foreign players mean that one of the current crop will be sold or join Kakuta and Hernanes out on loan.

Fans will hope that player to go is not Lavezzi, who was one of the best in the league last season. The Argentina striker has been linked with a return to Serie A side Napoli in the next transfer window as he looks to win back his place in Argentina’s squad for the World Cup in Russia.

Mascherano has long been linked with a move to China but has finally taken the plunge after deciding against staying in Barcelona, where he signed a contract extension until 2019 just last year, or returning to boyhood club River Plate.

He has not played for Barcelona since mid-November after picking up an injury while on international duty for Argentina.

Mascherano is set to retire from international football after the World Cup in Russia next summer but only needs two caps to break Javier Zanetti’s all-time appearance record of 143.