Barcelona star Javier Mascherano has revealed that Rafa Benitez convinced him to move to Liverpool in 2007 by telling him he was better than Steven Gerrard, Xabi Alonso and Momo Sissoko. The Argentina international says he was in a "20-metre hole" under Alan Pardew at West Ham United at the time, but the current Real Madrid manager trusted in him as he had previously tried to sign him during his time at Valencia.
The 31-year-old midfielder moved to West Ham in the summer of 2006, having previously been linked with the likes of Real Madrid and Barcelona. However, he was given few chances to prove his worth to the Hammers and was moved to Liverpool just months later. The Argentine reached the Champions League final that campaign and spent three more seasons at Anfield, moving to Barcelona in 2010.
Speaking to Gazetta dello Sport, the Barcelona star has lavished praise on Benitez and questioned the treatment he received from Pardew at West Ham, suggesting the current Crystal Palace chief did not even know where he played.
"It was frustrating to join after a World Cup and have the manager ask what position I played but I continued to push forward for six months," he explained.
Then Benitez arrived to rescue his Premier League career.
Mascherano continued: "He wanted me for Valencia when I was still at River Plate. After my experience in London I was thinking about La Liga or Serie A. I had met with the Juventus directors, who at that moment were in Serie B. And I asked Rafa: 'But how am I going to play if you have Xavi Alonso, Momo Sissoko and Gerrard.' And he told me: 'None of those three have your quality.'"
Despite being currently being rivals in La Liga, Mascherano still has plenty of good words for Benitez, confirming that they were close to be reunited two years ago at Napoli.
"It's true, we talked about [a move to Napoli] it. Now I have less contact with him because he's in Madrid, but I'll always be grateful for him taking me out of a 20- metre hole. He's a great man, a technical scholar and a fine teacher."