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Rumors Heat Up Of Javier Mascherano To Napoli

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The seemingly non-stop rumors linking Javier Mascherano to Napoli have ramped up a notch, with reports of a deal for the player agreed for the summer.

According to Calciomercato's Davide Russo de Cerame, Napoli and Barcelona have agreed to a deal to reunite Javier Mascherano with the manager that put the midfielder-turned-defender's name on the map. Rumors of Napoli trying to get their hands on the Argentine international have been around basically since the moment Rafa Benitez put pen to paper to take over the managerial role at Napoli, only now they seem to have some potential teeth instead of just more lazy transfer rumor template talk.

The fit for Mascherano in Napoli's lineup is fairly obvious. "Masch", as he's affectionately known, came to England as a defensive midfielder, and rose to stardom after moving from West Ham to Liverpool in 2007. The 29 year old is a hard man extraordinaire, a true enforcer at the position full of explosive tackles who, on his best day, could put the fear of god in to the man in his sights.

The years and a few injuries have put a lot of miles and wear on his legs, though, and in order to get the most of Mascherano's skills, Barcelona have converted him to mostly serve as a central defender over the last year and a half. He's a little small for the position at 5'9", but he's always played larger than his size and in the right system could be extremely effective. Based on observing him playing the position for Barcelona, I think he could be a good foil for Raul Albiol, but if Rafa wanted to use him in midfield, Mascherano's enforcer style would pair exceptionally well with Jorginho's smoother playmaking mojo.

Mascherano is also an accomplished international footballer, with 96 senior caps for Argentina to his name, on top of 28 youth caps. He's won two Copa America titles as part of the Argentina squad, and has been a key member of their setup for a long time, captaining the side on a number of occasions in recent years. Mascherano is connected to Federico Fernandez through the national team as well, and the two have known each other for several years.

Calciomercato's report indicates that Napoli is holding off an announcement until they've mathematically secured Champions League football. That still leaves a lot of room for error, so to speak, and given how long Napoli's supposed to have been on the verge of signing Mascherano, this is one I won't actually believe until he's signed a contract and is holding a blue shirt at a press conference alongside Rafa and Aurelio De Laurentiis. Still, it's fun to think about, because he'd be a great fit in the squad.