At the end of his first season at Anfield, Javier Mascherano featured in the Liverpool FC side that lost to AC Milan in the 2007 UEFA Champions League final. Now, as his first Camp Nou campaign draws to a close, he has a second chance to win the trophy as Josep Guardiola's FC Barcelona take on Manchester United FC.
"I have dreamed of getting to the Champions League final again, because it is very difficult to make it," said the 26-year-old defensive midfielder. "
For footballers that play at the big clubs like me, taking part in the Champions League every year is a normal thing, but not many make it to the last match, the final – it's like playing at the World Cup."
The Argentinian international added: "To have the chance again to play in the Champions League final, in my first year here at Barcelona, is fantastic. I hope that after the defeat with Liverpool, this time with a bit of luck we can win it. Barcelona managed to win [the final against United] two years ago and I hope the team can repeat that success. For me it would be a great feeling."
Having played for United's north-west rivals from 2007 to 2010, Mascherano knows Sir Alex Ferguson's side better than any of his Blaugrana team-mates. He remembers his encounters with the Red Devils well. "It is a classic rivalry," he said. "That fixture has something very special. I played at Liverpool for almost four years so I had the chance to play some great games against United. They always had that special edge."
That English perspective leaves the former CA River Plate, SC Corinthians and West Ham United FC man well placed to pick out United's key talents. "Rooney is the player that makes the difference at Manchester United," said Mascherano. "He has been so important for the team in the years he has been there. He is a really important player at the club and one of the best in the world.
"Then there is Chicharito [Javier Hernández], for the form he has shown in his first year. I knew him from Mexico, I saw some of his matches there, but what was surprising was that he adapted so quickly to the Premier League. It is a really tough league to play in – to have such success and to manage to help United is not easy at all. To come from South America to such a big team and have such success in your first year is just fantastic.
"Another player I would like to name who is impressive, a living legend, is Ryan Giggs," continued Mascherano. "He is a player who still, even at his age , shines so brightly in every position he plays. He is just a spectacular player. He is the player everybody has talked about throughout his career."
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