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Javier Mascherano: how one tackle on Nicklas Bendtner changed my career

The Argentinian seemed a fish out of water at the Camp Nou but a Champions League game against Arsenal shifted something: his position

Javier Mascherano has a confession to make: Nicklas Bendtner changed his life. It was March 2011, the Argentinian’s first season at the Camp Nou and he feared that it might also be his last. Barcelona were leading Arsenal 4-3 on aggregate in the second leg of the Champions League last-16, the same stage at which they meet on Tuesday, the clock showed 90 minutes and Barça were going through. Then, suddenly, unexpectedly, they found themselves watching in horror as it threatened to slip through their fingers.

Arsenal had not had a shot on target when Jack Wilshere put Bendtner one-on-one with Víctor Valdés. Score and somehow Arsenal would go through; Barcelona would be out. Bendtner took a touch, a little wide, and from nowhere a figure slid past and took the ball from him. Mascherano made the tackle, Arsenal went home, Barcelona went on to win the European Cup and he constructed a career in Catalonia. Had Bendtner scored, it might have ended there. As he puts it: “That tackle marked a before and after.”

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