Barcelona legend Javier Mascherano confirmed his retirement from the beautiful game on Sunday.
The former Liverpool midfielder, who had most recently played for Estudiantes, told reporters at the weekend that he was hanging up his boots after more than 17 years and 700 appearances.
"I want to announce that today I am retiring from soccer professionally," Mascherano declared. “I want to thank this club that gave me the opportunity to finish my career in Argentina.”
Mascherano's decorated career
Mascherano joins the likes of David Villa, Vincent Kompany and Iker Casillas as legends who have bowed out of the sport in 2020, sadly unable to get the send-off from fans that they deserve.
Nevertheless, Mascherano will be remembered fondly as one of the most underrated footballers of the 21st century and somebody who reinvented himself as a stalwart in great Barcelona sides.
While the Argentine's quality had always been apparent during his youth career and time in the Premier League, it was at Camp Nou where Mascherano solidified his status as a true great.
Time with Barcelona and Liverpool
And naturally, spending eight years with a team that won two Champions League titles during his spell, while also leading Argentina to a World Cup final, means Mascherano played alongside some pretty special players.
You've probably seen many of them pass on their best wishes to Mascherano on social media over the last few hours, but there are just too many world-class former teammates of his to name.
However, we wanted to give it our best shot by putting Mascherano's decorated career in context by creating the best possible 25-man squad of players he shared a dressing room with.
Mascherano's all-star squad of teammates
We've drawn up the starting XI, which - spoiler alert - has no shortage of Barcelona players, while also having to make some tough decisions on the bench and in the reserves - check it out below:
GK - Marc-Andre ter Stegen
RB - Dani Alves
CB - Carles Puyol
CB - Gerard Pique
LB - Jordi Alba
CM - Xavi
CM - Andres Iniesta
CAM - Steven Gerrard
RW - Lionel Messi
ST - Luis Suarez
LW - Neymar
So, yes, the starting XI is indeed rammed with no less than 10 Barcelona players, but just walk your way through that team and tell me which Liverpool or Argentina stars are more deserving of a place.
Ter Stegen tops Pepe Reina and Victor Valdes as Mascherano's greatest goalkeeper, while Gerrard holds the distinction of breaking into the Barcelona dominance with his Liverpool brilliance.
It's a credit to Gerrard for bucking the trend by way of his iconic status at Anfield, often leading the team heroically to titles as he did in the 2005 Champions League and 2006 FA Cup climaxes.
Meanwhile, we couldn't resist reuniting arguably the greatest front three in football history and who could make for a better supply-line to compliment Gerrard than the small matter of Xavi and Iniesta?
Juan Román Riquelme
For Liverpool and Argentina fans shouting at their mobile phones after reading the starting XI, fear not, because there's a little more variety when it comes to Mascherano's incredibly-strong bench.
It's a pretty terrifying thought that this imaginary team could call upon Aguero, Riquelme, Alonso and a prime 'El Nino' if they were chasing a game, not that I imagine that would ever be the case.
It also goes to show that Mascherano played behind some of the greatest midfielders and forwards, in particular, of his generation both in club and international football. Speaking of which...
Rest of the squad
Angel Di Maria
Just imagine this lot playing reserve games!? It's crazy to think that Mascherano has shared the pitch with so many quality teammates that World Cup and Champions League winners are here.
It's no slight on players like Tevez, Di Maria and Fabregas that they probably wouldn't make the match-day squad when they're competing with Aguero, Suarez, Xavi, Iniesta and co.
Nevertheless, it was incredibly painful that we even had to leave players like Pedro, Paulo Dybala, Alexis Sanchez, Thiago Alcantara, Eric Abidal and Sergio Romero out of the squad altogether.
GIVEMESPORT's Kobe Tong says
I feel like Mascherano doesn't get the love he deserves.
Besides, we're talking about a player who played alongside such quality players that legends such as Fabregas, Tevez, Higuain and Villa merely made the reverses in our Mascherano squad.
However, regardless of who he played alongside, there can be no denying that Mascherano proved himself as both a world-class midfielder and defender in some of football's toughest competitions.
The Argentine himself has admitted that he viewed football as a 'survivalist' environment and whatever was asked of him to survive, he always seemed to achieve with impeccable class.
Let's just say that Barcelona could have done with a prime Mascherano leading their defence when they were on the end of that 8-2 thrashing to Bayern Munich at the very, very least...
- Remembering Mascherano's only Barca goal
- De Bruyne's astonishing pass in England win
- Jack Grealish's superb highlights vs Belgium