Javier Mascherano has finally addressed speculation regarding his Barcelona future and hinted that leaving Catalan giants could be a possibility in the coming months.
The Argentine midfielder turned defender has been constantly linked with a move away from the Camp Nou in recent weeks, with Spanish publication Mundo Deportivo suggesting that an unnamed club from the Chinese Super League are willing to pay him €5m (£4.4m, $5.9m) to move to the Far East.
Mascherano has fallen out of favour under Ernesto Valverde and has played second fiddle to Samuel Umtiti, who is the preferred partner to Gerard Pique at the heart of Barcelona's defence. The Argentina international has made just six appearances in the league thus far this campaign, but that has also been compounded by his injury absences.
The 33-year-old, who has been a vital player for Barcelona since arriving from Liverpool in 2010, is keen to play regularly, but does not blame his lack of game time on anyone in particular at the club. He is keen to hold talks with the club and reach an amicable situation, as he does not want to sour relations with his employers.
"It was some time ago that I mentioned within the club that the situation I have to live through is nobody's fault, but simply a reality," Mascherano said talking about his future at the club, as quoted by Spanish publication Marca.
"It cannot be denied. I lost the importance I'd had in previous years.
"You need to look for happiness and for a path that makes you feel complete and important in what you're doing," he added after indicating that he expects to hold private talks with the club about his current situation.
The La Liga giants are desperate to hold on to him which was made clear by club president Josep Maria Bartomeu, especially since Valverde will be without Samuel Umtiti for a couple of months owing to a hamstring injury. They are unsure if they can secure an able replacement during the winter transfer window and are hoping that he remains with the club at least until the summer.
According to Marca, the club are expected to block his request for a January transfer for a third time as the manager sees him as a vital member of the squad. Umtiti's injury has made him indispensable as it will leave Valverde with just two fit centre-backs in Thomas Vermaelen and Pique and the former's fitness is questionable after having missed the most part of the last three seasons.
Mascherano, meanwhile, has missed a big chunk of games through injury this season and the defender has blamed the lack of game time for his struggles. The Argentine, who is currently side lined with a muscle injury, claims that he did not have such problems when he was a regular member of the starting XI in the seasons gone by.
"I've had 11 muscular injuries in the last few months and I think that's because of the lack of continuity [in the lineup]," the Argentine explained. "This had never happened to me before."