Former Liverpool midfielder Javier Mascherano has announced his retirement from professional football.

The Argentinian calls time on a stellar career at club and international level that included three-and-a-half years at Anfield.

Initially signed on loan by Rafael Benitez in January 2007, after a spell with West Ham United in the Premier League that had followed his emergence with River Plate and Corinthians, Mascherano made an immediate impact in a deep-lying central role.

His Reds debut came in a 4-0 home win over Sheffield United and he’d feature 11 times in total before the end of that season.

Combative, strong, skilled in possession and blessed with a relentless work-rate, he shone while helping Liverpool reach that year’s Champions League final.

A permanent deal to purchase Mascherano was completed during the next season, one that included the first of his goals for the club – a thumped finish at the Kop end against Reading.

The diminutive destroyer formed part of an outstanding spine in Benitez’s 2008-09 team that finished second in the top flight.

His most prolific campaign for appearances, with 48 in all competitions, was the difficult 2009-10 season that preceded Benitez departing the dugout.

It would prove to be Mascherano’s last with the Reds, too. In August 2010, after 139 games and two goals for Liverpool, he sealed a move to FC Barcelona, where he would spend eight years.

Mascherano – who amassed 147 caps for Argentina and played in four World Cups – later represented Hebei China Fortune and, most recently, Estudiantes.

“I am infinitely grateful to the clubs I played for, the teammates I had throughout my career,” he said. “I have lived my profession 100 per cent, I gave the maximum I could.”