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Luis García – Keeping tabs on a cult hero

July 4, 2011

Most European footballers almost certainly do not aim to play in the Mexican Primera División. But a former Spanish international, Champions League and English FA Cup winner, not to mention a cult hero at one of Europe’s most successful clubs, has just signed for Puebla FC. Luis García’s career is winding down at the age of 33, but in an environment less strenuous than a top European league, the former Liverpool number 10 may be able to show glimpses of why he is so fondly remembered by the red half of Merseyside. As one Luis lights up Anfield to the delight of the Kop, let us not forget the exploits of another who did likewise just a few years ago.

Arriving from Barcelona in 2004 as part of the ‘Rafalution’, García’s style of play soon became evident. He was attacking, could score from distance and enjoyed flicks and tricks. He also appeared to be fairly lightweight, and misplaced trickery could easily frustrate if employed at the wrong time in the wrong match. Nevertheless, he was an exciting player who could make things happen, and quickly made his mark on the scoresheet, netting in his second game for the Reds in a 3-0 victory over West Bromwich Albion.

It was his goalscoring – and general performances – in Europe which garnered him most praise. He scored in every knockout round of the Champions League in his first season, up until the final, and can be considered crucial in helping Liverpool secure the trophy in Istanbul, even if his performance in the final did not stand out. His goals against Bayer Leverkusen displayed his quick movement and deft touch; his strike against Juventus in the quarter-final was thunderous; and his disputed goal against Chelsea ultimately separated the two teams.

García’s second season at Liverpool was a little more inconsistent, but still contained moments to remember. Quick reactions allowed him to score in the Merseyside Derby at Anfield, while a dipping volley – not unlike the one he had scored against Juventus the previous year – dumped Chelsea out of the FA Cup at the semi-final stage (although a red card against West Ham in his next match meant he was suspended for the final).

The third and final season García spent at Anfield was blighted by injury, and he was sold to Atlético Madrid at the end of the season. It is unfortunate that his Liverpool career ended with such a whimper, but he had succeeded in leaving his mark on the club and the supporters. An appearance at Jamie Carragher’s testimonial in 2010 – where he scored a typical curling shot from the edge of the penalty area – allowed the Kop to say a final goodbye to a man who had been such a central character in the story of 2005.

Since leaving Liverpool, García has struggled to match the heights reached in 2005 and 2006. Returning to Spain, he struggled to hold down a starting position at Atlético, with only 12 of his 30 league appearances in the 2007/08 season coming as starts. The following season he started only five La Liga matches. Successive seasons at Racing Santander and Panathinaikos failed to provide García with regular football, and this disappointment appears to have led him to Mexico.

As with any cult hero, one remembers the good and turns a blind eye to the bad. There were certainly matches where García drew the ire of the crowd, and his growing role as a substitute reflected this. But in spite of his faults, there is no doubt that García deserves to be remembered fondly for those moments when his efforts paid off. He will not be remembered as a player who left a particularly significant impression on the Premier League. Indeed, outside Liverpool’s fanbase it is doubtful as to whether his performances in European competition – his “ghost goal” against Chelsea aside – are remembered especially strongly. It is a shame that he is not seeing out his career in Spain, but perhaps a move to Mexico will allow García the chance to play regularly and excite another set of supporters.

One Comment leave one →
  1. July 16, 2011 11:05 pm

    This aticrle went ahead and made my day.

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