Javier Mascherano has admitted that the lack of playing time has been the main reason behind his decision to put an end to his Barcelona "dream" and continue his career at Hebei China Fortune FC.

The 33-year-old defender was recruited from Liverpool in the summer of 2010 after garnering a reputation as one of the best holding midfielders around Europe during his time in the Premier League.

However, the Argentina international was quickly forced to adapt to new role in the heart of the back-line after the arrival of Sergio Busquets in Pep Guardiola's first-team limited his chances to play in the middle of the park.

Mascherano took advantage of Carles Puyol's dip in form and fitness to establish himself as a regular presence in the Barcelona defence, helping the Catalans win two Champions Leagues, four La Liga titles and four Copa del Rey trophies.

But his unmovable presence in the Barcelona's back-line came under threat once again in the summer of 2016 when they signed Samuel Umtiti from Lyon to become into his long-term replacement.

It was said that Mascherano had considered an offer to move with Dani Alves to Juventus but he eventually stayed at the Nou Camp and even signed a new deal until 2019.

Yet, again earlier last month it emerged that the former Reds star had asked Barcelona to let him go this month after having started only six La Liga games under Ernesto Valverde during the opening half of the season.

Mascherano has now explained that it was the right time to part ways for both him and the club during an emotional farewell event held at Camp Nou.

"I had been thinking about leaving for a while now. The passage of time was an indication. I was featuring less and less and that was becoming increasingly difficult for me. Before compromising the Club and it ending badly, I sought a solution so that we could end it in the best possible fashion. Finishing my time in the elite of world football at Barça makes me incredibly proud," the veteran defender said.

"I fulfilled a dream coming to Barça and now it is time to wake up. My time here lasted more than I thought, seven and a half spectacular seasons with a fantastic group in the dressing room. It has been a spectacular dream. It is a very special Club and I feel privileged to have been part of it. Barça is much bigger than you could ever imagine."

Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu said during the event that the club will hope to see Mascherano back at the Nou Camp as a coach in the future.

The defender refused to rule out that possibility but said that now is the time for him to continue his playing days at Hebei China Fortune FC.

"I am thinking about the future. I would like to try it, but now is not the time. I am grateful for the gesture by the board," Mascherano said.

The moved to the Chinese Super League outfit has been mentioned as a mere formality for some time and Barcelona finally confirmed the deal after the event.

"FC Barcelona and Hebei China Fortune FC have reached an agreement for the transfer of Javier Mascherano, who will join the Chinese club from 26 January," the La Liga giants confirmed though an official statement.

Barcelona have not disclosed the full details of the agreement but Sport says the move is worth €5.5m (£4.8m, $6.8m) and could rise to up to €10m with the add-ons.

Hebei Fortune will initially pay €5.5m because Chinese Super League rules indicate that deals in excess of that fee oblige their clubs to commit extra to help the development of the young players.

Yet, Sport says that Barcelona could still pocket the €10m they were demanding with the celebration of a friendly game.

Mascherano becomes the third player to leave the Nou Camp this month following the departures of Arda Turan to Istanbul Basaksehir and Rafinha Alcantara to Inter Milan.

Aleix Vidal and Gerard Deulofeu could follow the same path in the coming days to help Barcelona balance their books and make space for the January additions of Philippe Coutinho and Yerry Mina.

Javier Mascherano
Javier Mascherano joined Barcelona from Liverpool in 2010. Getty