Argentina midfielder Javier Mascherano has retired from international duty following their World Cup exit. The 34-year-old made 145 appearances for Argentina, including their dramatic 4-3 defeat by France in the last 16 on Saturday.
Mascherano played every minute of Argentina’s games at this year’s World Cup – his fourth successive tournament.
Just last week former Barcelona superstar Mascherano was reportedly the leader of an attempt to oust boss Jorge Sampaoli followinga 3-0 group humbling by Croatia.
But instead Mascharano himself is the first victim of the fallout from a miserable tournament for the 2014 finalists.
And before Argentina beat Nigeria 2-1 to set up the France clash, the ex-Liverpool midfielder had hinted at issues, both within the camp and personally.
Mascherano added then: “As a collective, where things don’t go as we’d like, we all have our own frustrations.”
He had spearheaded a meeting with the rest of Argentina’s 23-man squad ahead of the Nigeria clash, demanding talks with Sampaoli, his coaching staff and Argentine FA President Claudio Tapia.
The under-achieving Argentinian players wanted Sampaoli replaced by 1986 World Cup-winning midfielder Jorge Barruchaga, who is currently the national side’s general manager.
But the coup failed and Mascherano rallied the players together – which proved just enough to sneak past Nigeria but nowhere near enough to KO a far livelier France side inspired by two-goal Kylian Mbappe.
Now Mascherano is bowing out for Argentina after 146 internationals since his debut in 2003, scoring three times.
Olympic golds in 2004 and 2008 were his only tournament triumphs.
But, apart from losing to Germany in the World Cup final four years ago, he also picked up four runners-up medals at Copa America.
Mascherano joined Chinese Super League team Hebei China fortune in January this year after winning the Spanish League five times and the Champions League twice over the previous seven seasons.
Argentina star Javier Mascherano waves goodbye to the World Cup and his international career after France won the last-16 tie 4-3.