A summer of obsession over Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres left Javier Mascherano overlooked, but with the Argentine's return to Liverpool'come the realization of fears Reds supporters initially tasted last summer.
Today, manager Roy Hodgson brought the full weight of those worries to light with news that Mascherano wants to leave Anfield.
Whether Mascherano's allowed to leave will but up to Hodgson, the manager made clear on Tuesday:
"He wants to leave the club, he made that perfectly clear. I think he wanted to leave a year ago," said Hodgson.
"He wants to leave now but he is contracted to Liverpool so whether he leaves or not will be our decision."
Hodgson qualified the announcement by saying talks between the two parties were "pleasant," while Mascherano's future coming down to the pursuing clubs, assumed to be Barcelona and Inter Milan, making Liverpool an acceptable offer:
"The talks were extremely amicable. It was all done in a very nice way. Javier made it clear that he wanted to leave a year ago when he had the chance to go to Barcelona," a source told ESPN.
"He was asked to stay on for one more year [last year], he agreed, so now it is time for him to go. It was all very pleasant and it is now a question of the two clubs who are interested in him making an acceptable offer to Liverpool."
Last summer, Mascherano was linked with a move to the Nou Camp and was said to have been convinced to stay for one more season by then-manager Rafa Benitez. Benitez has since moved to Italy, succeeding José Mourinho at Internazionale, with Mascherano reportedly intent on reuniting with his coach:
The Argentina skipper returned to pre-season training at Melwood yesterday after his extended break following the World Cup.
Mascherano, who was accompanied by agent Walter Tamer, held talks with Hodgson after the session when he informed the new Reds boss he has his heart set on a reunion with former manager Rafa Benitez in Italy.
His agent recently revealed the 26-year-old would relish a move to the European champions, saying: "For Javier, Inter has a magical flavour.
"Just think, he is being tracked by the world’s strongest team, one where many of his colleagues from the national team play and one managed by a coach with whom he has a tremendous personal rapport."
Mascherano initially joined Liverpool on loan in February 2007, eventually moving to Anfield on a permanent basis in early 2008, with £17 million going to West Ham United. Since, Mascherano has made 138 appearances for the club, playing almost exclusively defensive midfield.
Beyond the potential loss of Mascherano, considered amongst the world's best in his role, Liverpool's dilemma stems from having nobody on their roster ready to step into his position. Though the club has players like Lucas and Alberto Aquilani who can play deeper roles in the formation, neither would be considered ball-winning midfielders in the style of Mascherano. Younger players like Jay Spearing have yet to show themselves capable of occupying a constant place in Liverpool's first team.
Though the change of system from Benitez to Hodgson could mitigate this problem, Liverpool may need to bring players in to fill the hole created by a potential Mascherano absence.