Javier Mascherano's tackle on Nicklas Bendtner saved his Barcelona career

The moment that kickstarted Javier Mascherano's Barcelona career

Not many football fans predicted that Javier Mascherano would succeed at Barcelona.

The Argentine joined the Spanish club in the summer of 2010 from Liverpool for a fee of around £20m.

At the time, no one could understand why Barcelona were splashing the cash on him, as there was no way he was going to usurp Sergio Busquets in the pecking order.

Mascherano's terrier-like playing style just didn't seem right for Pep Guardiola's slick, passing-obsessed side either.

That certainly proved to be the case for the first six months of his stint in Catalonia, with Mascherano looking like a fish out of water at Camp Nou.

But in March 2011, a single moment of defensive genius changed all that and saved his Barcelona career.

Mascherano kisses a trophy

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In a crucial Champions League quarter-final second leg against Arsenal, Mascherano performed one of the most incredible last-ditch tackles of modern times to prevent Nicklas Bendtner from scoring.

It truly was a moment of pragmatic brilliance, with Arsene Wenger falling to his knees near the touchline as a result.

You can check out footage of the tackle below.

Video

“That tackle marked a before and after," Mascherano admitted in an interview with the Guardian back in 2016.

“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.”

After his tackle on Bendtner, Guardiola started playing Mascherano as a centre-back and he went on to be the club's first-choice in the position for over five years.

(Credit: The Football Terrace)

“I actually played that game [against Arsenal] in midfield; it was Busquets who played at centre-back,” the Argentine added.

“But from then on, I played at centre-back: that tackle changed everything. I found my position."

It's incredible how one moment can completely alter the career of a professional footballer.

Had Mascherano not thwarted Bendtner that night, he probably would have been offloaded in the summer and Barcelona's long search for a new centre-back would have continued.

Instead, the Argentine went on to establish legendary status with the Blaugrana, making 334 appearances in all competitions and winning 19 trophies.

A funny ol' game, isn't it?

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