Javier Mascherano and Lionel Messi
Javier Mascherano and Lionel Messi Reuters

Javier Mascherano has been linked with a surprise return to Liverpool in the summer – thanks to Lionel Messi.

According to Sky Sports, Barcelona forward Lionel Messi thinks his Argentine compatriot and team-mate Javier Mascherano may return to Liverpool. The 33-year-old's time at the Camp Nou is coming to an end, with the club having found a replacement in Colombia centre-back Yerry Mina. Mascherano is also believed to have offers from MLS clubs and Paris Saint-Germain.

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Mascherano was hugely popular during three-and-a-half years at Anfield before moving to Barcelona in August 2010. The Argentina international was converted from central midfielder to centre-back and has won a host of honours with the Catalans, including four La Liga titles and the Champions League twice.

However, Mascherano is no longer a first-team regular as new boss Ernesto Valverde looks to mould a new generation at Camp Nou. The 33-year-old is under contract at Barcelona until 2019 but will be allowed to leave on a free transfer in the summer.

And according to Diario Gol, Messi – who counts Mascherano among his closest friends at Nou Camp – believes his fellow Argentine is set for greener pastures new.

The report also states both Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain are interested in signing Mascherano but suggests he could make a surprise return to Liverpool.

As per the Liverpool Echo, Mascherano, currently on international duty with Argentina, spoke earlier this week of his future while hinting he could leave Barcelona after next summer's World Cup.

"I'm always analysing my situation," he said, speaking to TyC Sports.

"I do not rule out anything, I do not want to be a prisoner of my words, I will seek my happiness."

The 33-year-old Argentina international signed for the Reds in controversial circumstances back in January 2007.

He had only spent mere months at West Ham, where he was criticised for his abject performances and a biting incident with Jermain Defoe.

FIFA rules say a player is not able to play for two clubs within a single season but, despite turning out for the Hammers and Brazilian side Corinthians, he was permitted to join Liverpool anyway.