Luis Garcia: El rey de España

Posted by Garstonite on November 13, 2005, 07:21:05 PM

Luis García arrived at the club in late August 2004.  A small, polished young man, who spoke in his first press conference of his desire to become a success at his new club.  Nobody quite knew what to expect apart from titbits of information quickly googled. 

We knew that Barcelona, a team packed full of world superstars, were desperate to keep him.  We knew that he and Benítez had both worked together at Tenerife.  We knew that he was an attacking midfielder, who scored lots of goals, by both arriving late into the box and shots from distance.  So as ever with any new signing it was exciting and the fact we knew little made it even more so.

His first test was against Bolton Wanderers.  Not your dream debut by any stretch of the imagination.  I am sure it is a fixture the flair players of the Premiership circle in their calendar first with an added note "develop flu".  You might well try to dance your way past players, you could give your showboating tricks a whirl if you wish, but the likelihood is you will find yourself in hospital, rather than on the score sheet.

However, García impressed.  Liverpool may have lost the game 1-0, but Luis shone in a five-man midfield.  He retained possession, created opportunities and scored a perfectly legitimate goal, which should have stood had the linesman gone to Specsavers.  As fans made their way back home from the Reebok Stadium, deflated, the talk of ‘little Luis’ enlivened them somewhat.  From first impressions, he looked a real winner …

As the season progressed, opinions varied though.  From the game against Norwich, where he and Xabi Alonso stole the show, in which comparisons with Liverpool legend Kenny Dalglish were drawn to the frustrating matches, particularly away from home, where fans grew angry and used García as their scapegoat.  His inconsistency was, and still remains, one of his most infuriating assets.

We all know what he is capable of.  His ability is unquestionable, as is his charisma which was put to the test on Derby day in March.  Liverpool had already used all three subs and García picked up an injury going into a tough challenge 5 minutes before halftime. The little Spaniard, however, continued for the next 45 minutes with a very visible ankle knock, silencing the critics that suggested ‘his kind’ couldn’t cut the mustard in the rough and tumble of the Premiership. With all the goals and the magical moments he has produced thus far, perhaps this will remain one of Liverpool fans’ best memories of Luis García.

I remember an article I read after Liverpool won the Champions League last May. It stated, rather stupidly, that Liverpool were merely an average side filled mostly with rejects from Houllier’s reign.  It said, and I quote, that nine of the players in Liverpool’s starting eleven were regulars in Liverpool’s 2003/2004 squad, which scraped a 4th place finish and left the UEFA Cup far too early. What it neglected to say, however, was that the two new players were Xabi Alonso and, of course, Luis García.

It was a naïve and idiotic piece of journalism. Would Liverpool have reached the Champions League final under Gerard Houllier? I highly doubt it, in fact he had failed in both attempts. Would we have gotten the opportunity to take on AC Milan in Istanbul without the aid of five goals courtesy of Luis García, a Benítez signing, throughout the course of the late stages of the campaign?  Again, I doubt it.

His three brilliantly-taken goals across two legs against Bayer Leverkusen, his blistering shot that beat the world’s greatest goalkeeper against Juventus and the fabulous anticipation that resulkted in the perfectly-over-the-line goal in the semi-final versus Chelsea.  All of these goals will go down in Liverpool folklore and he will forever be remembered as an integral part in Liverpool’s Champions League winning squad of 2004/2005.

Already this season, he has scored four goals, two of them in the Champions League and one in the Super Cup Final. This suggests that the Spaniard’s style is more suited to the European stage, however, with his flair capped off wonderfully with his admirable fighting ability, he has attributes to be a success for Liverpool domestically, too. OK, sometimes he can frustrate and occasionally he drops out of games, but he is the kind of player you can’t take your eyes off, because he is capable of producing a piece of magic to win the game.

It is all well and good having the grafters who win the ball and retain possession, it is the likes of García, the headline-winners, that will make a good side, a great one.  And who knows, following his stunning hat-trick against Slovakia for Spain, it could be the stepping-stone which makes him a regular for his national side too.  Something makes you think that he is the type of player Spain need to finally contend for major International honours.

I hope that little Luis stays at Anfield for a very long time, picking up lots of trophies along the way. 

"I admit at first I was scared to come to England. I was afraid of learning a new language, getting to know new players of so many nationalities.
"Benitez asked me if I was willing to change my surroundings, that he had thought of a special role in the side for me, that the adventure was going to interesting, attractive and that he needed competitive people like me. He knows me very well from our time together at Tenerife and I just had to come.
"In an early game away at Man United, Rio Ferdinand kicked me with all of his power. I flew one metre high and when I landed he muttered: 'Welcome to the Premiership'. In midfield it is like a wrestling match. Football is very different here to Spain.
"But I knew I was coming to a club where I would be allowed to express myself and where I was going to play an important part. There is nothing more essential to a player than to feel wanted.
"Day by day, we at Liverpool we are doing better on the pitch, victories are coming and we are imposing our personalities.
"I signed for five years but when I run out at Anfield on a European night, I'd sign for two more seasons if it was offered there and then. I think we could surprise a lot of people this year...

© Garstonite 2005

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