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Mascherano's 'Surreal' Road to the CL Final
Times Online, May 22nd, 2007 3:30PM



After the five luckless months Javier Mascherano endured at West Ham United, it's little wonder the Argentine says. "I find it unbelievable to be involved in this final." Indeed, nothing could have been more unlikely. Toiling away in the Hammers reserves as a club takeover and two different management regimes passed him by, Mascherano in his wildest dreams could have never hoped to be rescued by a bigger club on its way to the Champions League final. Yet here is, reputation restored, on his way to Athens with Liverpool to play AC Milan for Europe's most coveted trophy.

"This season has been a very strange and very surreal experience for me," Mascherano told the Times. "At West Ham, I was part of a struggling team and then I wasn't even getting a game. Then this opportunity came and here I am taking part in a European Cup final. Surreal is probably the best way to describe what has happened to me this season."

There's no question that Rafael Benitez and his band of bilingual assistants have had a lot to do with that resurgence: no less than eight players on Liverpool's roster speak Spanish as a first language. "The manager [Rafael BenÍtez] has been crucial in my resurgence, crucial," the Argentine said. "I have a lot more confidence now because of his trust." Mascherano is expected to start ahead of Xabi Alonso in center midfield tomorrow, where he'll be charged with the considerable task of containing playmakers Kaka and Andrea Pirlo.

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