Barcelona management has started the talks of the potential transfer of  Javier Mascherano with Napoli president Aurelio de Laurentis.

Spanish daily Marca has reported today that Rafa Benitez is a long term admirer of the Argentine and wants him at Napoli to strengthen his midfield.

Benítez had so much confidence in Mascherano that, as well as forging a powerful team core alongside Xabi Alonso, he converted the Argentine into a complete all-rounder, even using him as a right-back.

Marca has claimed that there has already been contact between the two parties with a view to doing business in the summer. Napoli already knows that Barça is willing to listen to an offer from the Italian side and that Mascherano is keen on the idea. The Catalonian club is also aware of the possibility of cashing in on a player with a contract that runs to 30th June 2016.

Napoli exited the Europa League after a 3-2 aggregate defeat to Porto last Thursday and their misery continued as they slumped to a 1-0 home defeat against Fiorentina in the Serie A on Sunday.

Benitez’s side were billed as potential Scudetto contenders at the start of the season, but they are now third in the table and 20 points adrift of runaway leaders Juventus, something that Albiol is determined to put right next season.

Mascherano is interested in working with Rafa Benítez again, and also the possibility of having played in the three biggest competitions in Europe: Premier league, ‘La Liga’ and now, ‘Serie A’. In moving to Italy he would also arrive at a place that already has a love affair with Argentines thanks to Maradona’s time at the club.

Mascherano knows that his chances of getting a game will take a big hit if he stays with Barcelona next season. The ‘Azulgranas’ are sure to sign one or two centre backs and as a result he’ll get far fewer opportunities to play in the back row.

Furthermore, it’s increasingly obvious that Barcelona needs an out-and-out centre back alongside Piqué for those big ties that place the defence under pressure. Despite arriving at Camp Nou as one of world’s best holding midfielders, the 29-year-old has mostly been used in the heart of defence over the past four years, making a total of 100 La Liga appearances for the Catalans.

Napoli defender Raul Albiol also claimed last week that he is excited by the prospect of Javier Mascherano joining the club.

“I’d love that, we all know that he is a player of a very high level,” the former Real Madrid defender told Corriere dello Sport.

THT Verdict:

The future of Mascherano will very much depend on Barca’s success in acquisition of quality defenders in the summer. If Barca signs one or more quality defender, coach Martino will allow the Argentine to leave.