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By ESPN Staff

Mascherano sets sights on Olympics

Liverpool midfielder Javier Mascherano has told manager Rafael Benitez he wants to miss the start of next season to play at the Olympics.

The Argentina international, who has been named in his country's provisional squad for the Beijing Games, wants to help them retain the title they won in Athens four years ago.

'It is a difficult situation,' Mascherano said. 'It's very important for any footballer to win the Olympics.'

FIFA rules state anyone selected must travel, even if they are one of the three over-23 players allowed.

Mascherano, who turns 24 in June, added: 'I know that Liverpool has a big game around when I have to go, but we will decide with the manager.

'We didn't talk about this because we had big games but now we have time. I want to play for my country.'