Mascherano acknowledges role Arsenal played in forging Barcelona career

Javier Mascherano is now a key figure at Barcelona.

Barcelona star Javier Mascherano has told The Sun that his side’s clash with Arsenal five years ago was the catalyst for his ensuing great success at the Nou Camp.

The Catalan giants once again have a Champions League date with the North London club after the reigning champions drew the Gunners in the knockout stages for the third time in six years.

Barcelona triumphed on both previous occasions, and it was their last meeting in 2011 – a 3-1 win at the Nou Camp – which Mascherano feels was a defining moment in his career.

“That tackle [against Nicklas Bendtner] marked a before and after,” the Argentine ace told The Sun. “After five, six months I thought it was unlikely I’d be here long: my characteristics seemed to go against everything Barcelona stood for.

“I actually played that game in midfield — it was [Sergio] Busquets who played at centre-back. But from then on, I played at centre-back: that tackle changed everything. I found my position and I’ve been there all these years. That moment marked me.”

That tackle ultimately saw Barcelona through to the next round at Arsenal’s expense following a 4-3 aggregate win, and the La Liga giants went on to win the Champions League that year.

Mascherano has made a total of 265 appearances for Barca, winning 13 major trophies. Ironically, though, he has never scored a goal for the club despite playing in arguably the best club side ever.

After winning five titles in 2015, Barcelona are well-positioned to win both La Liga and the Copa Del Rey this season, but the real aim is to be the first team to win back-to-back Champions League titles.

Arsenal are the first team to stand in their way, although Arsene Wenger’s men will have to be at their very best to stand any chance of getting the better of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, Neymar and Co.

Register for ARSENAL team updates

Register for HITC Sport - Daily Dispatch