Third on our list sees us at Bekker’s Blog look into the Liverpool career (albeit a relatively short one) of the man who came from Barca to bring us joy – Luis Garcia.
Luis Garcia was signed in August of 2004 by then manager Rafa Benitez for a fee of 6 million Euro’s. The Spaniard had been a product of the famous Barcelona youth academy and had finally made it into the side the season before. This prompted Benitez, who had worked with Garcia four seasons earlier while he was on loan at Tenerife, to snap the talented Catalan up in a time when the Spanish revolution was taking place. Antonio Nunez, Josemi, Fernando Morientes, Xabi Alonso and Garcia would all join la Anfield, although only the latter two would make a marked impact.
Garcia’s first season would prove to the world why he is considered as one of Benitez’s most important signings. He had a legitimate goal disallowed for offside on debut against Bolton but would go on to register his first goals for the club in his next two games – grabbing goals against West Brom and Norwich. He would grab 7 goals in the league that season which failed to compare to his Champions League exploits. Luis, along with Steven Gerrard is regarded as being the key component to Liverpool’s Istanbul triumph. The little Spaniard scored the winning goal against Juventus in the Quarter-Finals, a goal which was voted as Liverpool’s goal of the year for the 2007 and repeated this feat against Chelsea in the Semi’s – in the process creating the life-long debate around the ‘ghost goal’. He played 12 out of the 13 games in the Champions League campaign, grabbing 5 goals in the knockout-phases. All in all he scored 13 goals in his debut season, an impressive season for the man who had just replaced Michael Owen as Liverpool’s number 10.
His second season would prove to be a lot less dramatic although he would again prove to be the nail in Chelsea’s coffin as he scored a fantastic goal from outside the area to send the Londoners home, and send Liverpool through to the FA Cup Final against West Ham. As life would have it, Luis would miss the final because of a red card he would pick up against the Hammers in the league – his only red of his Liverpool career.
His 3rd season, and in fact Liverpool career would end in tragic circumstances when Luis was ruled out in January 2007 with a serious knee injury that kept him out for about 6 months. At the end of the season he moved back to Spain, and back to Atletico Madrid with whom he played a season for before, for a fee of 4 million Euro’s. As he left, Fernando Torres came the other way in a separate deal, but not even that could make the Kop faithful forget Luis. He ended his spell at the club with 30 goals in 121 games, 10 of those goals coming in the European competitions which he loved so very much.
He would make one last return to Anfield in 2010 for Jamie Carragher’s testimonial match in which the mercurial maestro scored another magical goal.
In the 3 years that Luis spent at Anfield he became somewhat of a cult hero. He was famous for his ability to strike a ball with his left or right foot and for a small player, to be able to score great goals with his head. He was versatile, being able to playing as an attacking midfielder, winger (on either side) or as a striker and had remarkable skill with the ball – and losing the ball. It was his thing, one moment he was a player that could challenge for the Ballon d’Or and the next he quite simply wasn’t. Some said he blew hot and cold, some said he was inconsistent but despite that no Liverpool player could say a word of bad against Luis because, being the magician he was, they knew that he could pull a moment of brilliance, a game changing goal or a vital winner from absolutely nowhere.
The simultaneous frustration and joy one felt when watching Luis is summed up perfectly in one Rafa Benitez quote:
“You have to accept Luis for what he is. When he played for me at Tenerife, I tried to change him, but you have to say OK, he does what he does and provides different things. I have kept trying to remind him – many times – that when he takes the risks he does, he should do it closer to the opposition box. He can give possession away and that can anger the fans. But he also does different things that excite them and he scores goals. I tried to change him in Spain, and he scored 16 goals for me, so you have to accept what he does”
Luis could be playing the worst game of his life but the Kop loved him so much that they would still chant his name – and chant his name they did. They even had a song for their ‘Little Spaniard’ to the tune of ‘You are mu sunshine’.
“Luis Garcia – He drinks Sangria
He came from Barca – To bring us joy
He’s five ft. seven – He’s football heaven
So, please don’t take our Luis away!
Testament to the affection the fans have for him, Luis was voted as number 43 in the original 100 Players Who Shook The Kop – with only Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher placing higher than him of players who still played for the club
Truth is, he was brilliant and he was frustrating, he was magical and he was careless, he was amazing and then he was invisible. But no matter what, he was Luis Garcia, and he was ours.
…..Next time, Remember the Name: David James