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Barcelona confirm Javier Mascherano exit as China move looms

Javier Mascherano struggled to hold back the tears as he announced his exit from Barcelona after nearly eight years.
ESPN FC's Alejandro Moreno assesses Javier Mascherano's legacy and importance to Barcelona during his near eight-year spell with the club.

Barcelona have confirmed that Javier Mascherano will leave the club this month, seven-and-a-half years after he joined from Liverpool for €24 million.

The Catalan club have not yet confirmed Mascherano's destination, but Hebei Fortune coach Manuel Pellegrini said at the weekend that he expects the Argentina international to join him in the Chinese Super League. Local reports suggested Barca will receive around €10m from Hebei Fortune for the transfer.

Mascherano, 33, will hold a news conference on Wednesday to bid farewell to the club, with president Josep Maria Bartomeu and the first-team squad set to be in attendance.

He will then say goodbye to the club's supporters on the Camp Nou pitch before Thursday's Copa del Rey quarterfinal second leg against Espanyol.

Mascherano joined Barca in 2010 to provide competition for Sergio Busquets in midfield but soon found himself playing as a centre-back under Pep Guardiola.

During recent years he has been a mainstay in the side, forming a partnership with Gerard Pique in the middle of the back four, but he has seen his place taken by Samuel Umtiti this season.

With his minutes reduced and a World Cup on the horizon, Mascherano decided earlier this season that he wanted to leave the club in January to re-find regular football. Speaking in December, he hinted at his departure, saying that his time at Barca was coming to an end.

Javier Mascherano's latest adventure lies in China with Hebei Fortune.
Mascherano has been at the club for seven-and-a-half years.

Barca were loathe to lose him at first, but given everything he's given for the club decided that they would heed his request and grant him his move to China this month.

Yerry Mina has already been signed as Mascherano's replacement. The Colombia defender joined from Brazilian side Palmeiras for €11.8m two weeks ago.

Mascherano has made 334 official appearances for Barcelona under five different coaches -- Guardiola, Tito Vilanova, Tata Martino, Luis Enrique and Ernesto Valverde.

Only three foreign players -- Lionel Messi, Phillip Cocu and Dani Alves -- have made more appearances for the club than Mascherano, who will leave having won 17 trophies during his time in Catalonia, including four league titles and two Champions Leagues.

Samuel Marsden covers Barcelona for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @SamuelMarsden.

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