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Leo Messi and Javier Mascherano are the only two Argentinian players on FC Barcelona’s first team. The duo are close on the pitch, playing for FC Barcelona and the Argentina national team, as well as off it, where they are united by a strong bond of friendship that began ten years ago.
Mascherano, from San Lorenzo, and Messi, from Rosario, made their first touches with the ball in two cities just 30 kilometres apart in the province of Santa Fe in their native Argentina. But it wasn’t until November 2005 that they played together, doing so with the Argentina national team in Switzerland. "[Then head coach, José] Pékerman called me to join the group, despite being injured, and Leo was getting his first experience on the national team. It was a friendly against England," says Mascherano in the latest issue of Barça Magazine.
Argentina were preparing for the 2006 World Cup, set to be played in Germany, and lost the friendly to England by a score of 3–2. Neither Mascherano nor Messi played — one due to injury and the other due to suspension (Messi's August 2005 debut against Hungary had been spoiled by an inadvertent elbow and a corresponding red card).
While Mascherano’s club at the time was Corinthians, and he was about to make the leap to the Premier League, the young Messi had recently emerged from La Masia and was beginning to shine on FC Barcelona's first team.
At the time, there were still lingering debates in league circles as to whether signing Messi had been the correct decision. Messi, wearing the number 30 for Barça, was already a drawing major attention in Argentina after having won the FIFA U-20 World Cup.
14 titles and 300+ games
Ten years after coming face to face in Switzerland, Messi and Mascherano have done a lot of winning together. They won the gold medal at the 2008 Olympic Games, and reached the finals in the 2014 World Cup and the 2015 Copa America. Messi is the national team captain and Mascherano is his right-hand man. They’ve been together at Barça since the 2010/11 season and have won 13 titles.
The numbers only further demonstrate their deep connection. At Barça they have played 219 official games together, according to the AFA, while also coinciding in 88 games for Argentina. Curiously, with both in the line-up, Argentina have only lost one of their the last 23 official games, the lone defeat coming against Germany in the Final of the last World Cup.
||Copa América||Knock-out games