Friday, September 18, 2015

An evening with Luis Garcia

Anfield legend wows the crowds in London

Emdad Rahman: Liverpool legend Luis Garcia was the guest at a live show in Islington, appearing before the large crowd to talk about his career at Anfield.

Liverpool fans all over the world remember with an all over tingle that famous Anfield night in 2005 when the little number 10 scored one of the most iconic goals in football history. Thanks to Jose Mourinho, the moment is etched in football history –and universally known as the “ghost goal”. It was the moment that sealed Rafael Benitez’s Liverpool a place in the Champions League final against AC Milan. The rest is the stuff of dreams. Richard Keys clocked off with the perfect summary: “I hope you enjoyed it. You might never see another night like it.”

Liverpool fans know the truth about the goal, but here was a chance to hear it from the horse’s mouth. “It was over the line,” Garcia said with a cheeky smile as the crowd roared their approval and broke into song.

Garcia spoke of the time when he signed for Liverpool. He had played for Rafael Benitez and scored 16 goals as Tenerife were promoted. “I had played for Rafa Benitez at Tenerife and he kept in touch with me. He wanted me to join him at Valencia, but I joined Atletico Madrid. When he took over at Liverpool, he called me and told me of his plans. He was confident that he could make good progress at Anfield and told me how big the club was and how I fitted into his plans and what he wanted to achieve.

“He sold the club [to me], and I was convinced. It was simply an amazing move for me – and the memories I will treasure all my life. Rafael Benitez was the best manager I have had in my career. He gave me support and confidence. He demanded 100% and that’s how we achieved so much.”

Garcia arrived at Anfield and scored his first goal against West Bromwich Albion at home. He scored eight that season and achieved hero status after heading in the winner against Everton in the Merseyside derby – after reacting the quickest to a Fernando Morientes pile-driver which Nigel Martyn failed to hold. Garcia scored a crucial Champions League Quarter Final goal against Juventus in 2005 and also in the UEFA Super Cup win over CSKA Moscow. In a 2013 fan poll of the 100 Players Who Shook the Kop, García was ranked 34th. The Mersey star made 121 appearances and scored 30 goals at Anfield, with ten coming in the Champions League, five in the knockout stages of the historic 2005 campaign.

Garcia believes that part of the success under Rafa Benitez was the ability to produce goals from all over the pitch. “We had Djibril Cisse and Milan Baros but they had good support from the likes of Steven Gerrard and myself. We had goals in the team to balance.”

The former Barcelona player hails Lionel Messi and Ronaldinho as the greatest players he has worked with and watched. “The thing about Lionel is his attitude. Even now as a world superstar he’s so humble and down to earth. Nothing about him has changed as a person since he arrived at Barcelona.”

He also spoke about the moment when Steven Gerrard was felled by Milan warhorse Gennaro Gattuso for the crucial second half penalty in Istanbul. “I thought it had my name on it, I wanted to take it. Then Jamie Carragher charged towards me and said a few words and the penalty went to Xabi. Such a nice guy is Jamie.” This memory bought the house down for several minutes.

There was also a Twitter question about the funny moment (not at the time) when Garcia triggered a social media storm when he tweeted a major spoiler about the final episode of the latest series of Game of Thrones. To all round amusement the former Barcelona and Atletico Madrid star said, “I have learnt to keep quiet in future.”

Tweeting about the event Garcia said: “Fantastic night in London with 5timesco and the LFC supporters. Thanks for the great memories.”

The event was hosted by Peter McDowall of LFC TV.

The Liverpool Former Players Association, under the “5 Times” banner, organises many different types of event that bring Reds fans closer to some of the legends they used to watch at Anfield while at the same raising significant funds for good causes. Proceeds from every show, exhibition match and dinner organised by 5 Times are distributed to charities close to the heart of the players and to the Liverpool community.

•For more information about LFC London, which helped with the running of the event, go

Twitter: @LFCLondon

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