“Luis GarcÃa, he drinks Sangria
He came from Barca to bring us joy
He’s five foot seven, he’s football heaven
So please don’t take our Luis away”
Jose Mourinho is a pathetic child. Despite having a superior squad at his disposal, he got routinely backhanded by Rafael Benitez when it mattered. Rather than accept this fact, he cried and he whinged, and he whinged and he cried; just as he has always done and just as he most likely always will. There’s much to admire in him as a manager, but as a man there’s very little I find little endearing about him, and frankly I’ve always found it bizarre the players that play under him (and it’s certainly under, no one is allowed to outshine the Special One) get sucked into his games.
So despite his wonder goal against Juventus, his goal against Charlton, or that other goal against Chelsea, the greatest goal Luis Garcia ever scored for Liverpool is the one that no one quite knows whether or not it crossed the line. It was a scrappy tap-in (“in” being debatable, of course), yet it was endlessly satisfying.
Years of acceptance of their nouveau riche positioning, and the departure of chief antagonist Mourinho, have mellowed the antipathy towards Chelsea, but in 2005 the general feeling towards them was loathing. They didn’t receive as much credit as they deserved for the entertaining football played when Arjen Robben was fit, but, other than that, the majority of criticism was warranted. They had bought the league at a cost per point total unrivalled by any side since its inception, including those who had been relegated, and performed with an arrogance often far removed from the quality the team showed. Even before Roman Abramovich turned up they had bankrolled their success with money they didn’t have, they certainly needed him much more than he needed them.
Not that the Special One had to worry about that. Credit must go to Mourinho for timing his moves so well, but, Porto aside, much of his success has fallen into his lap, and the fact he never won the Champions League at Chelsea should act as a massive black mark against his record. Who stopped them in that first year? A team including Djimi Traore and Igor Biscan. John Welsh, now of Tranmere Rovers, made the bench!
And it was Garcia who actually sealed their fate. The first leg had ended in a dull 0-0 draw, however, just three minutes into the second, the little Spaniard had (possibly) bundled the ball across the line. Liverpool then held out and made it through to the final in Istanbul.What’s more, they had done it in such a brilliant way. Mourinho said after the game: “The best team lost. The linesman thought they scored one goal and we didn’t score, so we lost.” Happily ignoring the fact referee Lubos Michel would have sent off Petr Cech for his foul on Milan Baros in the build-up to the “goal” had it not gone in, Mourinho rather backhandedly gave Liverpool fans a brighter future.
As one of those mind-games men, as much a character as an actual person, it’s hard to judge how much of what Mourinho says he genuinely believes, but personally I don’t see him accepting the defeat as fair. Had Liverpool won in a more clearcut way, Mourinho would have been forced into reflecting on the defeat in greater detail, but a unfair defeat wouldn’t have wounded his ego as much, so when they returned two years later it was amusing to watch Liverpool progress yet again.
While the ghost goal sealed Garcia’s place in Anfield folklore, it certainly wasn’t the only great moment from his time on Merseyside. At times he was brilliant, a tricky and versatile magician, who had a fascinating sway to his running style, making you believe he could turn and twist away at any moment. He could sometimes, but sometimes he couldn’t, and sometimes when he did he would turn and twist into an opposing player. Inconsistent, they call it.
He was like a Roberto Carlos free-kick: a creator of one of those amazing YouTube moments when his ideas worked, but irritating for those who watched the rest of the attempts at what seemingly only the law of averages allowed. The Juve goal is among the greatest I can remember, but the failed attempts at replicating it really started to grate eventually, especially when Liverpool were in need of a goal and relinquishing possession so cheaply was borderline suicidal.
Nevertheless, some of the time he was absolutely brilliant, and that some of the time is enough to make him a hero to a portion of Liverpool’s fanbase.
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