Barcelona defender Javier Mascherano has expressed his gratitude to Rafa Benitez and feels the Real Madrid coach saved his career.
The Argentina international initially struggled to find his feet in Europe after joining West Ham from Corinthians in 2006, but Benitez recognised his potential and signed him for Liverpool after a disappointing six-month spell at the London side.
Mascherano has not forgotten about his former mentor and has stressed he will always be grateful to Benitez.
“He’s a great man, and a diligent and excellent coach,” Mascherano told La Gazzetta dello Sport.
“I’ll always be grateful to him for having rescued me from the big black hole I was stuck in.
“At West Ham, I was hardly given any playing time. It was the first time I’d played in Europe and then Rafa came to Liverpool and took me there.
“People didn’t understand it, with them already having players like Xabi Alonso, Mohamed Sissoko and Steven Gerrard in midfield.
“But Benitez said to me that none of those three had the talent that I did…”