Player Profile: Luis García
Date of Birth: 24/06/1978
Height: 1.76 m
Position: Winger/Attacking Midfielder
National Team: Spain
International Caps: 20
International Goals: 4
“He’s five foot seven, he’s football heaven” is how the Kop famously hailed their original king Luis back in the mid-2000s. In fact, they still do. But while Luis Suarez will be remembered widely as the best known Luis to turn out in the red of Liverpool, their fans will point to García as the most cherished version having provided a couple of the most famous moments in Anfield’s history.
The signing of Luis García from Barcelona was one that had the look of giving a jaded player a chance to restart his career. After failing to make the grade at his incredibly famous boyhood club, Barcelona, García had moved to Atlético Madrid where he impressed in the 2002–03 season. He returned to Barça the following season but was deemed to be surplus to requirements. As a result, the pint-sized winger joined Liverpool in 2004 along with Xabi Alonso as part of Rafael Benitez’s Spanish Revolution at Anfield.
Benitez already knew the player having worked with him during a loan spell at Tenerife when García was a youngster. He was the man Garcia trusted to turn things around after being overshadowed by the likes of Javier Saviola, Patrick Kluivert and (forgivably) Ronaldinho at the Camp Nou.
A fresh start at a club where expectations were also relatively low was just what García needed as Liverpool themselves were far from shining on the biggest stage. García came straight in to claim the number 10, recently vacated by Liverpool legend Michael Owen who had gone the opposite way across the Bay of Biscay to join Real Madrid. Maybe there was a little pressure after all.
The Spaniard was hardly a youth prospect coming into Anfield. Arriving at the age of 26, García was expected to hit the ground running as a player reaching the prime years of his career. It’s fair to say he didn’t do too badly during his first season in England, his slight frame standing up well to the robust nature of the Premier League.
The fact that his 13 goal haul was just a minor subplot of his maiden Liverpool campaign tells you more about the impact he had on the Liverpool faithful in 2004-05. It was this famous Champions League campaign where he made his greatest impact.
Fast forward to the quarter-final against Italian giants Juventus. Anfield was already rocking after Sami Hyypia’s sweetly struck opening goal. But then time stood still as Luis García let a hopeful ball infield bounce once over his shoulder. Rather than taking a touch to assess the situation, García had already visualised what was about to happen. What he produced was probably even better than what he imagined.
Undeterred by the fact that the world’s greatest goalkeeper was standing between the sticks, the Spanish magician smashed a soaring, dipping left-footed half volley into the top corner of the Anfield Road goal to send an already bouncing Anfield crowd into delirium.
How do you top that? By going one better, of course. García’s worldy helped to set up a mouth-watering Champions League semi-final clash against Premier League champions-elect Chelsea. Liverpool did a thoroughly professional job on Jose Mourinho’s side in the first leg, leaving the tie finely poised at 0-0 ahead of the Anfield leg.
Four minutes into the game, which was played in a hostile cauldron-like atmosphere, Luis García was first to react to a ball bouncing awkwardly in the Chelsea penalty area. Using every inch of that five-foot seven-inch frame, García extended a leg to poke the ball towards goal. Not even he knows whether it crossed the line. Mourinho claims to this day that it didn’t, but history states the contrary, and as the Spaniard wheeled away he had once again succeeded in taking the roof off Anfield.
Such scenes are why García, as talented as he was, is still lauded on the red half of Merseyside, despite only staying in the city for three years. Five of his 30 Liverpool goals came at the business end of that famous fifth European Cup win in 2005.
García’s Anfield career tailed off after his maiden season (admittedly it would have been hard to top what he achieved first time around), but he did still find time to fit in another goal in a semi-final against Chelsea, this time in the FA Cup which Liverpool went on to win.
Luis García’s Liverpool career came to an end in undeservedly harsh circumstances due to a cruel Anterior Cruciate Ligament injury that kept him out for six months, but he will forever be remembered as a legend due to the unforgettable moments he provided.
After his time at Anfield, García went on to become somewhat of a globetrotter. First, he headed back to Atlético where he played mainly as a backup for a couple of seasons, before a brief spell with Racing Santander.
With his star, and form, beginning to fade, García moved to Greek giants Panathinaikos for a largely uninspiring season. He then joined Mexican Liga MX side Club Puebla, where he briefly rediscovered his form and scoring boots. García then moved to Puebla’s Liga MX rivals, UNAM but failed to replicate the form which had seen him light up the league in his first season.
Despite hanging up his boots after his final year in Mexico, Luis García came out of retirement for the inaugural Indian Super League season. The Spaniard signed with the then Atlético Madrid affiliated Atlético de Kolkata. His experience proved vital as he helped guide the newly formed club to victory in the Indian Super League Final.
His playing career came to an end the following season with a short stint in the Australian A-league. García played ten matches for the Central Coast Mariners, scoring 2 goals before calling time on his career.
Luis García will forever be remembered as a Liverpool legend. His trophy-laden spell at the club included an FA Cup, Community Shield, UEFA Super Cup and of course the biggest prize of them all – the UEFA Champions League.
Luis García can count himself unfortunate to have seen his football career coincide with Spain’s golden generation of talent that came through the ranks at the same time. For a man of his talents, 20 caps hardly seems to do him justice.
Good form for Liverpool saw García claim his first Spain cap in a 3-0 friendly win over China in March 2005. He later enjoyed his best performance in a Spain shirt, scoring a hat-trick in a 2006 World Cup qualifying demolition of Slovakia.
García was picked as part of the squad for the resulting World Cup finals and started two out of the three group games in Germany before being benched for the 3-1 defeat at the hands of a Zinedine Zidane inspired France.
Where is Luis García now?
Since hanging up his boots, Luis García has done some work as a television pundit. He also works in an ambassador role for former club Liverpool, where he regularly appears in legends matches.
Did you know?
– García’s Mum originally put him in a basketball team as a child, but he was advised to play football after he continually chose to kick the ball. His height was also most likely an issue…
– He retired twice: firstly at the age of 35 before coming out of retirement to play in India and Australia.