Argentine international defender Javier Mascherano was unveiled as the Chinese Super League’s most high-profile signing in a year on Wednesday as he joined Hebei China Fortune from Barcelona.
The 33-year-old is the biggest name to head to China since his fellow Argentine Carlos Tevez 12 months ago. After a series of record transfers, Chinese authorities moved to crack down on sky-rocketing deals last year.
He will wear the number 14 shirt and team up with another Argentina international, Ezequiel Lavezzi, at Hebei, who are based in the northern city of Qinhuangdao and are coached by former Manchester City coach Manuel Pellegrini.
“After reaching agreement with Barcelona FC and the player himself, the distinguished Argentine captain Mascherano has, starting today, officially joined Hebei China Fortune Football Club,” the Chinese side said, without disclosing the transfer fee.
Spanish giants Barcelona had announced on Tuesday that Mascherano, who can also play as a defensive midfielder, was leaving the club after seven-and-a-half successful seasons, without stating his destination.
The Catalan giants said Mascherano would be given an official farewell on Wednesday and say goodbye to fans at Thursday’s Copa del Rey quarter-final, second leg against Espanyol.
Last month, Sport, a Catalan daily, said that Hebei had reached a deal to sign him from Barca for 10 million euros ($12.2 million), conditional on the Spanish club plugging the gap, which they did by signing Colombian centre-back Yerry Mina.
Mascherano arrived at Barcelona from Liverpool in August 2010 and won four La Liga titles, four Copas del Rey, two Champions Leagues and two Club World Cups.
He scored one goal from 334 appearances, when his team-mates pushed him to take a penalty during a 7-1 rout of Osasuna in April 2017.
Only two non-Spaniards, Lionel Messi and Dani Alves, have played more games for Barcelona.