​Javier Mascherano has explained why the feeling of not being 'important' to Barcelona anymore enabled his transfer to Hebei Fortune to occur.

The ex-Blaugrana star has headed to the Far East to link up with former manager Mauricio Pellegrini at the Chinese Super League club, and spoke at his leaving event (via ​ESPN) about his departure form Camp Nou.

Mascherano enjoyed almost eight years of service with the Catalan giants, but he felt the need for a new challenge after he fell down the pecking order under new boss Ernesto Valverde.

And the Argentina international stated that he needed to accept his time in north east Spain had come to an end with the arrival of the Basque manager.

He said: "The moment had arrived. I had to take this decision. 

"Time has been the biggest indicator that I was losing my importance in the team. It was making things more difficult. I didn't want to put the club in a difficult position, so this was the decision.

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"Sometimes you have to accept the reality. I'm not the player I was. It's normal, natural. I needed to make this change. I didn't feel like I could revert the situation here. The quality of the centre-backs in the team is so high."

Rather than criticise anyone for him having to leave Barcelona, however, Mascherano chose to pay tribute to those he had played alongside and the club's fervent supporter base for helping his 'dream' become reality.

After a number of current Barca superstars and club president Josep Maria Bartomeu thanked the 33-year-old for his loyalty and friendship, Mascherano didn't leave a dry eye in the house.

He added: "The hardest thing about playing for Barcelona is that you know that one day you will have to leave.

"I feel privileged, fortunate for everything I have been able to experience here. I never imagined I would stay here for so long and be part of the club's history.

"No one moment or trophy will stay with me, but just the day-to-day experience of being at this club, whose values are transmitted around the world. I have enjoyed unique moments and been lucky to play with the players that I've played alongside. It has been a dream."