Kop Legends

Remembering Football Heaven: LFC’s Original Luis

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LITTLE was known about Luis Garcia Sanz when he signed from Barcelona in 2004 for £6 million but he became a vital player for LFC during his three years at the club.

He came through the ranks of the world famous La Masia academy, and after impressing the coaches of the Barcelona B team he was loaned out firstly to Real Valladolid to gain some first team experience.

Luis later joined Toledo scoring 4 goals in 17 games.

It was while on loan at Tenerife that Garcia first impressed former manager Rafa Benitez; under Rafa’s guidance he scored 16 goals which helped Tenerife secure promotion to the top tier of Spanish football

He returned to Valladolid for a second spell scoring 7 goals including 2 in a 5-1 thrashing of former club Tenerife. His form alerted Atletico Madrid who paid €3.6 million to take him to the Vicente Calderon. And after scoring 9 goals in 1 season Barcelona activated a clause which allowed him to return to the Camp Nou. Garcia continued to impress in a Barcelona side that finished runners-up to Rafa’s Valencia.

When Rafa become LFC manager one of the first signings he made alongside Xabi Alonso was Garcia, stating:

“He is a talented player who is predominately left footed but can play just off the striker as well as the left side of midfield. He is an exciting talent who can setup goals as well as score them”

Liverpool’s new ‘number 10’ made his debut at the Reebok against Bolton and was unlucky not to score as the linesman (they like raising the flag incorrectly against us don’t they – look at Luis Suarez against Everton – maybe it’s the name) wrongly disallowed a goal for offside. On his Anfield debut he gave the first of many Man of the Match performances, scoring in a 3-0 win against West Bromwich Albion – he became an instant hit.

Playing from the right side or off the striker he cemented his place as a fans favourite. He continued to be a nuisance to defenders at home and in Europe with his quick feet, clever movement and an eye for a pass. Goals like his first in front of the Kop against Charlton – 30 yards out, the ball seemed to be heading wide before majestically curling into the net was the icing on the cake. Luis could make something out of nothing and was someone who could ‘unlock the door’.

There were times when despite the wonder goals and clever skill he would lose the ball and put the team under pressure. He occasionally drifted in and out of games which would frustrate a number of fans. I saw past Luis’ flaws after meeting him at Melwood. When he first arrived, his English was limited so he was made up when we conversed in Spanish. He was amazed that a fan had took the time to make him feel at ease. Garcia now holds a special place in my heart.

It was the knockout rounds of the UEFA Champions League that Luis came to the fore. He scored 3 vital goals over both legs against German side Bayer Leverkusen, who had Berbatov and Voronin in their ranks.

Liverpool were drawn against Italian side Juventus in the quarter finals, and tensions were running high before the game at Anfield as it was the first time we had both played each other since the Heysel disaster. Luis scored a fantastic goal after a cross from French youngster Anthony Le Tallec. The whole ground celebrated as Garcia’s 25 yard volley flew past Buffon in the Anfield Road goal. This was Luis at his very best.

His most important goal in the Champions League was still yet to come…
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The Reds were drawn against the newly crowned English Champions Chelsea – Mourinho before the game pinned up a note in the away dressing room that said 33 points (the gap between the two sides at the end of the league campaign) as a way of motivating his players. The first leg at Stamford Bridge had ended in a 0-0 stalemate.

The atmosphere at Anfield for the game was electric – still one of the best I’ve been part of in over 14 years. Three minutes in, and Milan Baros was brought down by the racing Petr Cech. The referee could have sent off Cech and gave us a penalty and Chelsea could have played the rest of the game with ten men. The ball came loose Garcia hooked the ball goalwards (I was level with the goal line with sitting in the Paddock – the ball was 100% over the line) before Chelsea’s William Gallas cleared it off the line. Garcia started to celebrate, after a short pause the goal was given. The whole of Anfield erupted in a deafening wall of noise.

“After the game, Sheila, who was sitting right in line in the main stand, said to me that the ball had crossed the line. She was a very honest person so that was good enough for me. It was a goal.”

Rafa Benítez on Luis Garcia’s goal vs Chelsea in the Champions League semi-final. Sheila Walsh his private secretary, left no doubt in his mind on the validity of the goal!

As 90 minutes approached on the clock the fourth official put up SIX minutes of added time (they were the longest 6 minutes of my life) especially when Eider Guðjohnsen blasted the ball past the Kop goal in the last minute. It was like time had stood still. Chelsea knew 1 goal would see them progress on the away goals rule.

The whistle was blown the Reds had done it; reaching their first European Cup Final in 20 years and Garcia had scored the crucial goal to take us there. Winning the Champions League was the highlight of Garcia’s time at LFC and his career.

He scored 13 goals in his first season. Kopites were chanting Luis’ name many times to the tune of ‘You are my Sunshine’.

His second season saw him win the FA Cup even though he was suspended for the final after getting sent-off against, ironically, West Ham in the league at Upton Park.

He still contributed by scoring in the semi-final at Old Trafford against, you guessed it, Chelsea. He scored a further 11 goals in the campaign.

His form for his club that season earned him international recognition with Spanish coach Luis Aragonés calling him up to the National side, with whom he played 18 times for, scoring four goals, including a hat-trick against Slovakia in qualifying for the 2006 World Cup. Garcia was a part of the squad for the World Cup as Spain reached the last 16.

Sadly the 2006/2007 season would be Luis’ last season wearing the number 10 shirt. He wasn’t guaranteed a starting place in the side and his season and ultimately his LFC career was over after sustaining an anterior cruciate ligament injury against Arsenal in the FA Cup.

The summer of 2007 saw Garcia leave Liverpool and head back to Spain and Atletico Madrid for a second spell at the Vicente Calderon. Shortly after leaving Liverpool, however, Garcia wrote an open letter to all Liverpool fans thanking them for their support during his time on Merseyside, only adding to his popularity amongst the Anfield faithful. Here is a small part of it:

“Dear Reds,

First of all I’d like to apologise for not having been back in touch sooner, but I needed to take some time to take on board all the recent changes and then to put down these words for you. I’m sure you will understand.

I would rather this be a letter of thanks and gratitude, not simply a goodbye….Thanks to all of you for your help and your friendship.

I’ve left until last the thank you which for me is the most important: Thank you to the supporters.

Your support allowed me to settle quickly at both the club and in the city, and you made me feel really at ease with you all right from the word go; that’s the kind of help that you notice most of all during the difficult times, of which there have been a few during my time here.

I’d like to especially thank you for making up a song for me and you should know that every time I heard you singing it, it was like an extra injection of strength and motivation, even helping me to overcome pain occasionally during a game.

Your unconditional support is the thing that ensures that this team manages to pull through in the most difficult circumstances; and I can assure you that the whole squad is aware of this and thanks you for it.

A football club isn’t just made up of players, coaches and directors. More than anything else it’s the supporters who make a club, and that perhaps is the ingredient which best distinguishes Liverpool Football Club from every other team. The supporters.

Because if one thing has remained obvious to me after these few years, it’s that with supporters like you, Liverpool Football Club will never walk alone.”………… Your friend, Luís García.
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He spent a further two seasons at Atletico Madrid wearing the number 9 shirt before moving to another Spanish club in Racing Santander, then to Greek side Panathinaikos, spending a season at each club.

At the end of the 2010-11 season Garcia was on the move again this time to join Mexican club Puebla where he enjoyed a successful first season scoring 13 goals. That success earned him a move to fellow Mexican side and current team, Club Universidad Nacional.

To date he has managed 1 goal in 10 appearances but he has struggled with a few injuries since joining them in the summer.

Regardless of him playing for various clubs in four different countries, it is for his three years at the Liverpool that Luis Garcia will always be most remembered.

His goals, whether it is against Everton or Tottenham or his numerous European goals, his thumb-sucking celebration, his moments of magic, his song and even the times he left more than 40,000 fans inside Anfield exasperated as an unnecessarily complicated pass or touch went wrong, ensure that he will forever be remembered fondly by Liverpool.

He even returned to Anfield to take part in Jamie Carragher’s testimonial against Everton and to nobody’s surprise he opened the scoring with one of his trademark specials (if only he was a few years younger maybe he could of played a part in LFC’s new era under Rodgers)

Rafa Benitez once said of his fellow Spaniard: “You have to accept Luis for what he is.”

Liverpool fans did, and he made sure they didn’t regret it.

Luis Garcia,

He drinks Sangria,

He came from Barca to Liverpool!

He’s five foot seven,

He’s football heaven,

So please don’t take our Luis away!

Thanks Luis for the memories!!

Follow me on Twitter @MRSSG
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I am a lifelong Liverpool supporter from Huyton Liverpool just like Stevie G and go all over the world supporting my team I go the games in my wheelchair as I suffer from Cerebral Palsy however that does not stop me having a ball cheering on the World’s Best Team.
I write a weekly column talking about various topics whether that is tactical analysis of matches, opinion pieces, looking through the archives of previous matches, former players and current articles on Brendan and the first team.
It is great being part of the first class writing team at Live4liverpool.com and bucking the trend in being the first woman to write for the site.
Follow me on Twitter @MRSSG to keep up to date with my articles. Y.N.W.A


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