As Javier Mascherano talks about a possible Nou Camp exit, David Moyes would be foolish not to make a move.
After the long and unsuccessful pursuit of Cesc Fabregas, it is back to the drawing board for Manchester United as they attempt to sign a midfielder of true quality.
The player’s public rejection came after United either were or were not interested in his former teammate Thiago Alcantara – depending on who you believe.
But there is a third Barcelona player who may just be available, and who would be the perfect signing for David Moyes.
Javier Mascherano is a defensive midfielder rarely used as such. Instead Barcelona play him predominantly as a centre-back. But with reports continuing to link the Spanish champions with a move for a new defender, the Argentinian has been speaking about his future.
When asked by Spanish newspaper El Pais if he was leaving the club this summer, he said, “Well one never knows. In football you have to be prepared for anything. There were calls from somewhere else, but no offers.
“But if the boss tells me he does not want me, I’m going that minute.”
That sense of being wanted is one echoed – at least off camera – during the Fabregas saga. The feeling was always that the player would stay as long as he was wanted; and when you play for Barcelona, that is a sensible rationale.
But at 29, Mascherano knows he could be set for one last big move. And rather than run his finger further down the list of alternative signings, Moyes would do well to make a bid for a player who would bring much to United, allowing the younger, more creative players to thrive in front of him.
As a defensive midfielder, the Argentina captain is outstanding, and his previous Premier League experience with West Ham and Liverpool means he would take no time to settle.
The Anfield ties are strong, with the player dedicating his Champions League success of 2011 to those fans upset by his departure.
The player also has less than happy memories of Old Trafford, having been sent off there and making quite the fuss in the red card’s aftermath.
And yet United have already attempted to sign a former Gunner with a history of United altercations, why shouldn’t they try for a former Red who would improve them considerably?
Mascherano is widely believed to be among the best midfielders in world football, and the fact that he so rarely plays there for his club clearly hasn’t bothered him up to now. But with United able to offer him not just a starting birth but a starring role, it would be an offer to at least consider.
United’s pursuit of Fabregas was always doomed to fail. With Xavi approaching the twilight of his career, and with the former Arsenal man back in his spiritual home, only the most optimistic of supporters would have believed the move possible.
But Mascherano has no such ties, and may see the arrival of a new out-and-out centre-back as a sign his time is up.
He may say no. His Liverpool ties may be too strong, or he may decide to stay and fight for a place as he has done his entire career.
But in the same interview Mascherano talked about “plugging holes” at Barcelona and said, “I can’t feel the same as a Catalan.”
They are merely words, just a few among many. But if it was a farewell interview, United would be wise to make a bid.
He may not have been their first-choice Barca player, or even their second, but he could turn out to be exactly what they are looking for.
Would you like to see United move for Mascherano? And which other players does Moyes need to sign before the transfer window closes?
image: © jamesmoore