Whatever happened to Luis Garcia?

Luis GarciaMany Liverpool fans will hold the name of Luis Garcia in reverance; after all, he delivered some memorable moments during his brief stay on Merseyside. Taking over the no. 10 jersey from Michael Owen was no easy task when Garcia arrived for £6million in the summer of 2004, but he soon became a Kop favourite. The Spanish winger started off his career in the Barcelona academy, making his way through the youth ranks until he made it into the B team. After couple of seasons, he quickly realised he was not going to make it to the first team eleven and was promptly sold to Real Valladolid. He failed to impress at the Castille club, and made two loan moves to Toledo and Tenerife. His second was a very productive spell and he made the switch to Atletico Madrid in 2002, where he made enough of an impression in a successful year for Barcelona to initiate a buy back clause of £5million.

In the 2003/2004 season he was a regular in the first team at the Nou Camp and assisted the Catalan club to a second place finish, but he wasn’t still an automatic starter, which made him an attractive target for Rafa Benitez when he took over Liverpool preceding the 2004/05 season. Benitez already knew the player when he was manager during the wingers successful loan spell at Tenerife, and now, as Benitez was putting a new team together at Liverpool, Benitez asked Garcia to join him at Anfield in the new Spanish revolution. As a replacement for El-Hadji Diouf, Garcia would excel in his first season after being bought for £6million, he had tremendous skill with the ability to pass opponents and fire off a powerful shot, but this reputation was tempered by the fact that he could be very inconsistent, losing balls in crucial areas of the pitch. His tremendous versatility borne out of the fact he could use both feet, meant he could play on either flank or just behind the striker. It made him very useful for Rafa Benitez during the transition period of his first season in England.

Despite his inconsistencies, Garcia soon became a fan favourite after scoring many crucial goals during his first season. He scored a winner in a Merseyside derby, but it was his exploits in Europe which really got the fans on his side. He scored the crucial goals against Juventus and Chelsea in the Champions League quarter finals and semi finals respectively, helping his team in the process to win the European Cup for the fifth time after that memorable night in Istanbul. He finished the season joint top goalscorer with 13 goals but his Anfield career began to slide after his first season in red. He started many games on the bench during the 2005/06 campaign but he did have a very memorable moment during the season as he scored a vital goal in Liverpool’s successful FA Cup run, scoring a fantastic goal against Chelsea in the semi-final.

He was still weighing in with some crucial goals but the Spaniard was becoming an ever more peripheral figure, and he was not helped during the 2006/07 when he ruptured the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee during the 6-3 Carling Cup defeat by Arsenal in 2007. It was effectively the end of his Anfield career and he was offloaded to Atletico Madrid during the summer of 2007. After a great 3 years in England, Garcia saw his form drop on his return to Spain and although he played in 30 league games during his first season, they were mainly from the substitute bench as he found himself deputy to another new signing Simao. Last season he fell completely out of favour under coach Javier Aguirre, he made few substitute appearances and on many occasions found himself outside the match day squads. The wings were filled up with players such as Maxi Rodriguez, Simao and even Jose Antonio Reyes; there was no place to be found for the talents of Garcia.

The most damning criticism of Garcia’s performances at Atletico have been the comments by Atletico director Jesus Garcia Pitarch who stated:

One thing I regret in these three years I’ve been here is to have signed Luis Garcia.

It was a harsh indictment of the 31 year old and last summer, after only 17 league starts in 2 years for the Madrid club; Garcia left Atletico for Racing Santander. On Pitarch’s comments, Garcia seemed unaffected:

I don’t understand. It was him who signed me, but if he has these thoughts, very well, it’s not important to me.

He has only started 4 games this season, none of which Santander have won, and has been used as a sub in 7 other matches, if he is to recover the sort of form he showed at Liverpool he’s going to need to do a lot more than he is currently doing, otherwise he may just find himself in the wilderness of Spanish football.