Rafa praise for 'positive' Masch
Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez believes Javier Mascherano is setting an example to his team-mates.
Last Updated: 16/02/10 10:27am
Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez believes Javier Mascherano is setting a positive example to his team-mates at Anfield.
The Argentina captain has been in excellent form and his return from the suspension and knee injury that followed his red card at Portsmouth has coincided with his club's mini-revival.
Mascherano was forced to play at right-back in the recent Merseyside derby victory after Sotirios Kyrgiakos was sent off, while he was arguably the Reds' Man of the Match in the narrow defeat at Arsenal last week.
Benitez is understandably delighted with the performances of the midfield enforcer he bought in 2007 after an initial loan spell at Premier League rivals West Ham.
"Javier is showing on the pitch why he is the captain of Argentina," the Liverpool boss told his club's official website ahead of Thursday's Europa League meeting with Unirea Urziceni.
"He is someone who has a very good character, he is very positive and can inspire those around him.
"He is setting an example to the rest of the team. I am really pleased with the way all of them are playing at the minute, but Javier Mascherano is a player who is doing really well for us.
"Look at the derby. He played in a different position, but he still managed to have a massive impact and everyone can see there is a big difference in what he is doing now."
Mascherano was linked with a move to Barcelona last summer and discussions with the European champions took place.
Benitez has implied that the speculation surrounding the move affected the 25-year-old, but believes there is now complete focus.
"At the beginning of the season it was very difficult for him. But now things have settled down and he is working very hard for the team," added the Spaniard.
"He is back to the Javier Mascherano that we signed. His commitment to the club is 100 per cent."
Benitez has also given his backing to Albert Riera as the wide-man works his way back to top form after an injury-hit campaign.
"Albert is an option on the left," said the manager. "It is important for us to have competition for each place.
"He will improve. He needed to train some weeks in a row but he has come on again in the last month and you can see that in his training."