This article is part of Football FanCast’s Expert Roundup feature, which provides three quotes from those in the know in order to illuminate fundamental strengths, weaknesses, quirks, stylistic comparisons and general observations of players, transfer targets and confirmed signings.
It is fair to say that Barcelona weren’t too happy in 2017 when Manchester City swooped to sign their prized academy talent Eric Garcia.
The then 16-year-old centre-back had excelled as captain in every age group throughout his development at La Masia and was considered within the club as the natural heir to Gerard Pique and a future household name. A year later, influential displays for Spain in their Under 19s Euro triumph began the long journey of proving the Catalan giants’ lofty assessment correct with the youngster’s composure in tight areas and excellent distribution impressing.
A consummate debut outing for City in an away EFL Cup trip to Leicester last December further fanned the flames with Pep Guardiola openly effusive on his defensive prodigy, but it’s the recent losses to injury of Aymeric Laporte and John Stones that has really brought Garcia to wider attention.
With the champions notably light in numbers at the back might they now turn to their highly promising teenager at a time of need? A league debut recently against Watford – coming on for a second half cameo – suggests they will and, with that in mind, perhaps it’s about time we found out more about the Spain under 21 international who seemingly has every attribute to become a long-term favourite of Pep.
To do this who better to turn to than those who know him best…
On signing for City, Blues flocked to Google to discover more about a player described as ‘one of La Masia’s biggest hopes’ but that aside information was slim on the ground. Thankfully David Cartlidge – a human Spanish football encyclopaedia – was on hand to help fill in some of the blanks and raise the excitement levels even further, as per CityWatch:
“There is a touch of Carlos Puyol about the kid in terms of his mentality. He’s very strong willed and determined, with that excellent natural leader glow about him.”
Throughout Garcia’s development in England his gaffer has never shied from talking up the teen’s admirable character traits over and above his footballing ability. That was never truer than here ,as per FourFourTwo:
“He’s so smart, so intelligent. His physicality is not so, so strong, but he resolves the situation by thinking. I like to work with smart people, intelligent people. He is one of them. I can count on him. He has shown me an incredible personality.”
Garcia’s introduction to the Premier League may have only consisted of half an hour against a heavily defeated Watford but it later emerged that his biggest contribution that day took place prior to kick-off. With Guardiola unsure whether his opponents planned to play with four or five across the back, his debutant informed him he’d been studying their warm-up and it would be the former.
It is attention to detail such as this – especially from one so young – that recently led his colleague Walker to suggest the Spaniard’s bright tomorrows in football do not solely reside on the pitch as per YouTube:
“Do you know who I think will become a Premier League manager? Eric Garcia. Even though he’s so young he just looks like one of them centre-halves who will become a manager.”
If a ball-playing centre-back was created in a lab especially for Pep Guardiola he would look and play remarkably like Garcia, the next Gerard Pique.