Former Albiceleste legend Javier Mascherano has agreed to rejoin the national team set-up, taking over the Under 20 squad, the Argentine Football Association (AFA) announced Thursday.
"The 37-year-old former captain of the national team will take up the post from January 2022," AFA said in a statement.
Mascherano is the only Argentine footballer to win the Olympic gold medal twice, at the Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008 Games. He replaces Fernando 'Bocha' Batista, who will join a new coaching team put together by Jose Pekerman, who has been hired to take charge of the Venezuelan national team.
"I never say what someone has to do, if I don't do it myself first to set an example," Mascherano once said when asked to outline his footballing personality, underlining the leadership skills that led to him being nicknamed ‘El Jefe’ (“The Boss”).
The retired centre back and defensive midfielder won Argentina’s top flight with River Plate and bagged another league title in Brazil with Corinthians. He reached his pinnacle at FC Barcelona, winning 19 league and cup titles while playing alongside his international team-mate Lionel Messi.
He is the second most-capped player in the national team’s history with 147 appearances, behind his former Barça team-mate on 159.
AFA's decision was approved by national team coach Lionel Scaloni, who already has former international teammates Walter Samuel, Roberto Ayala and Pablo Aimar on his coaching team.
Since retiring a year ago, Mascherano had been working for AFA as National Methodology and Development Director, a role that saw him oversee the hunt for youth players.
The ex-River Plate star played in four World Cups: Germany 2006, South Africa 2010, Brazil 2014 and Russia 2018. He was part of the side that finished runners-up in 2014, losing the final 1-0 to Germany.
During a 17-year club career, he also played for English sides West Ham United and Liverpool, before being transferred in 2010 to Barcelona, where he spent eight seasons and won 18 trophies.
After 20 months at Hebei Fortune in China, he returned to Argentine top-flight football with Estudiantes de la Plata in 2019, but was only able to manage a handful of games before the coronavirus pandemic forced an eight-month suspension. In mid-November 2019, he announced his retirement from professional football.