Mascherano rejects criticism

Mascherano: Professional

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Javier Mascherano has denied going on strike at Liverpool as he prepares to seal his move to Barcelona.

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The Argentine international is expected to tie up his move to Barcelona on Monday after Liverpool reluctantly agreed a fee for the midfielder on Friday.

Liverpool boss Roy Hodgson aimed a swipe at Mascherano following a deal being agreed with Barca questioning his professionalism after the former West Ham man reportedly refused to play in last Monday's defeat at Manchester City.

However, Mascherano has blasted Hodgson's criticism and claims he was 100 per cent professional during his time at Anfield.

"I showed at Liverpool that I am always 100 per cent professional and nobody can doubt that," Mascherano told The People.

"Against Manchester City I was not right to play. I spoke with the coach and he understood my position. It was better for the team.

No problems

"I have never had any problems with the new coach - I accepted his orders and Roy Hodgson would confirm it.

"My team-mates knew it was my decision and did not say anything about it to me."

Mascherano insists his move to Barcelona is not driven by money and he is excited about joining the Spanish champions.

"Liverpool will always be in my heart, but my time there has finished and now it is time for a new challenge," added Mascherano.

"I have not left Liverpool to join Barcelona for money, just for sporting reasons. The Barca project is very exciting. They have been interested in me in the past and this second opportunity to join them was impossible to reject.

"I will for ever be grateful to Liverpool for what they did for me, but I have done all I can for them on the pitch in return.

"The fans were always brilliant with me and now I must wait to see if they view my exit negatively. That is football."

Messi influence

Mascherano also revealed former Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez wanted to bring him to Inter Milan, but that Lionel Messi played a big part in persuading him to move to Camp Nou.

"Inter was the first option," he added. "Rafa wanted me for his new project, but my family and the challenge Barcelona provides made me choose Spain.

"Lionel Messi was also a big influence. He spoke with Pep Guardiola and told him Barcelona needed me."