by Oliver Kay (The Times)
Liverpool face a serious battle to retain the services of Javier Mascherano after it emerged that Barcelona are determined to take the Argentina midfield player to the Nou Camp at the end of the season.
Mascherano joined Liverpool in January in an unusual lease arrangement, with the Merseyside club paying a loan fee not to West Ham United, his previous club, but to Media Sports Investment, the company that holds his “economic rights”. Under the terms of the midfield player’s 18-month loan, Liverpool can make the deal permanent by buying him outright from MSI for £17 million before June 30 next year, but their hopes of securing his services in the long term seem certain to come under threat from Barcelona.
Liverpool remain confident of their prospects of holding on to Mascherano, who has revived his career on Merseyside after a miserable spell at West Ham and who recently stated his desire to “stay for a long time”. But Barcelona could complicate the situation, having made their interest in the Argentina player known via a third party. A transfer to Spain was initially Mascherano’s preference before he made his ill-fated move to West Ham in August 2006.