Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez has again insisted that Javier Mascherano is not for sale, but he wants him to quickly recover his best form.
Mascherano was strongly linked with a move to Barcelona in the summer, but Xabi Alonso's switch to Real Madrid ended any hopes that he may also get a move to Spain.
Now a combination of form and injury has seen Mascherano kicking his heels on the bench in recent games - but Benitez fully expects him to be back to his best sooner rather than later.
"He is the captain of Argentina thanks to Liverpool," said Benitez.
"He understands it's very, very important for us to have the best from Mascherano if we want to win more games."
Benitez admits that The Reds are very much looking to extend his stay with the club.
"I have told the managing director that he is very important to us and we want to keep him, and we will look at his contract when the time is right," Benitez explained.
"He is a key player for us and he will be a key player for us during the season.
"I think he is working very hard and in one or two games he was playing well but the team was not doing really well in the other two. It's more the team than just one player.
"He has to play at the level he was before, but he has enough time to do that, and we know he is a key player for us, and will be for a long time."
Not for sale
The Liverpool boss also confirmed that he has warned Barcelona off making a move, confirming that he told their sporting director Txiki Begiristain that Mascherano would not be leaving.
"There is talk of Barcelona interest still, but top sides are always interested in top players, this is normal," he said.
"He has a contract and we want to keep him. I told Begiristain before that we wanted to keep him and he knows my opinion.
"The main thing for me is that he is a professional. He has been in London and he has been in Liverpool and I think he was very happy in Liverpool, so if we can win some games then I think it will be easier for a professional to be happy."