But when long-time admirers Barcelona joined the race, there was only ever going to be one winner.
Mascherano, whose wife refused to move to England, flirted with them last summer but agreed to stay on at Anfield for one more season.
He told the People: “Inter was the first option, Rafa wanted me for his new project, but my family and the challenge Barcelona provides made me choose Spain.
“Lionel Messi was also a big influence. He spoke with Pep Guardiola and told him Barcelona needed me.”