Lionel Messi makes personal plea to Valverde over Javier Mascherano

Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi is understood to have made a personal plea to manager Ernesto Valverde to involve Javier Mascherano regularly in his first-team plans.

The former Liverpool man has not featured for Barca since the opening day victory over Real Betis with Gerard Pique and Samuel Emtiti having cemented their places at the heart of the defence.

With the World Cup coming along next year, Mascherano would require regular playing time to get into the Argentina squad, and Messi appears to be doing everything within his reach in order to better his compatriot's chances.

According to DiarioGol, Messi has personally requested Valverde to consider Mascherano in his plans in what is likely to be his final season at Camp Nou. The 33-year-old has been a great servant for the Catalan giants over the years, but his performances have dipped over the past year, which has forced him to occupy a regular bench role.

The two-time Champions League winner is relishing the prospect of representing his nation for one final World Cup, and it will be interesting to see whether Valverde does honour the request of Messi to play the veteran more often.

Barcelona's campaign started off in poor fashion with a 5-1 Spanish Super Cup defeat at the hands of Real Madrid, but they have since then not put a foot wrong with victories in the first four games of the La Liga campaign. Meanwhile, they also avenged their Champions League quarter-final defeat to Juventus last term as they beat them by a 3-0 scoreline in this season's group stage.

The Catalan outfit are currently leading the La Liga table with 12 points, and they are already four points ahead of close rivals Real Madrid, who have stuttered in the opening stages of the campaign. Zinedine Zidane's side have been held to draws against both Valencia and Levante.