Barcelona's Javier Mascherano set to join Hebei China Fortune - Pellegrini
Hebei China Fortune coach Manuel Pellegrini has confirmed he expects to sign Javier Mascherano this month, with the Barcelona defender anticipated to complete his move to the Chinese side within two weeks.
Mascherano has been linked with a switch to China since December, although there has not yet been any confirmation from either side of the deal.
However, after Barca signed centre-back Yerry Mina last week, Pellegrini has now revealed that Mascherano is close to completing a move to Hebei Fortune
"The idea is that he comes here," Pellegrini told Marca from Hebei China Fortune's training base in the south of Spain.
"We have to see what the situation is with Barca, but he's a player that I am really interested in."
Pellegrini previously worked with Mascherano -- who has won over 140 caps for Argentina -- at River Plate in the early years of his career and he believes he will be a success in China.
"It was me that gave him his debut in the [Argentine] Primera with River Plate," the Chilean coach added. "He's a leader and I think he would do well in the Chinese league."
Reports in the Catalan press suggest that Barca and Hebei Fortune have already agreed on a fee of around €10 million for Mascherano.
Despite missing the midweek defeat at Espanyol with a slight injury, Mascherano is expected to return to the squad for this weekend's trip to Real Betis.
He would then make himself available for Barca's next two home games, the return leg against Espanyol in the Copa del Rey and the league game against Alaves, where he would say goodbye to Camp Nou.
After eight years at the club, who he joined from Liverpool in 2010 for €24m, Mascherano has seen his place taken by Samuel Umtiti.
As a result, he feels he needs to move on in order to play regular football in the build-up to the World Cup, which he has already confirmed will be his last tournament for Argentina.
Mascherano has suffered a string of niggling injuries this season and he feels that's a consequence of not playing regular football.
Pellegrini and Hebei Fortune hope he will join up with his new teammates at the end of January in Marbella ahead of the start of the Chinese Super League season at the beginning of March.
Barca responded to Mascherano's desire to move on by bringing forward the signing of Mina, who joined from Palmeiras last week for €11.8m.
Samuel Marsden covers Barcelona for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @SamuelMarsden.