Liverpool boss Benitez praise Mascherano

He said: “Of all the youngsters to have come through in recent years, Mascherano is the one who has impressed me most. He’s a monster of a player and destined for great things and when I heard there was a chance of signing him the other month, it was too good to miss.

“He might not have played many games for West Ham, but just training with them had its benefits. Each session taught him more about the Premiership, about its players, its pace and physical aspects.

“He certainly feels he knows a lot more about English football now, and he has a real desire to remain involved at this level. He wanted to come here and show people he was good enough to play in the Premiership and do well and the evidence is there for all to see.

“In the 4-1 win against Arsenal on Saturday, just as in his other games for us, you could see he’s a really good player. We knew when we signed Mascherano that we needed another holding midfielder, just in case Xabi was not able to fill in.

“In the event, I played Xabi and Javier alongside each other against Arsenal and it gave freedom to the wingers and to Steven Gerrard.

“It proved a good option but whatever formation we go for, I know one thing. Mascherano is a winner with a strong mentality.

“He has 22 caps for Argentina already and that tells you everything about his ability and temperament. Just think how many English players have that many caps at his age, and you are talking about a fantastic national team in Argentina.

“He has settled down well and shown he has real character. There are so many qualities to his play, particularly the way he’s always in the right position and manages to keep possession.

“The only problem has been the difference between being fit from training and being match-sharp from playing. He hasn’t had a lot of games, but he will get by until the end of the season.

“Not 100 per cent, maybe, but if we get to the Champions League final again, that might just put an extra spring back in his step.”