Attacking midfielder Luis García remains instantly associated with Liverpool for his role in the unforgettable 2005 UEFA Champions League success, and with one last on-field adventure underway in India, the former Spain international reveals the significance of music throughout his voyage up to now.
The ex-Barcelona youngster had tasted life and football in his homeland, England, Greece and Mexico before he announced his retirement from the game in January this year at the age of 35. As it transpired, an offer to help launch the star-studded Indian Super League as Atlético de Kolkata’s marquee signing convinced the one-time Liverpool number 10 that he wasn’t finished just yet.
Now captain of the Calcutta-based club part-owned by his former side Atlético Madrid, Luis has been enjoying the challenge amid the undeniably agreeable surroundings. Although the deal entails much more than just minutes on the field, his move to West Bengal means that observers get another glimpse at the talents that have lit up many games in the Badalona-born player’s career.
Football enthusiasts are well aware of the ability and vigour that saw Luis win the UEFA Champions League and the FA Cup in his spell at Liverpool from 2004 to 2007. The flair, the invention, and the eye for a sensational strike were roundly revered by Reds supporters the world over, and Luis always managed to convey enthusiasm and personality during his time in England.
However, the musical side of the 20-cap Spanish international is much less explored, and in addition to the football aspect of the player, each interview on here looks into that. Luis, who scored four goals for his country and played at the 2006 FIFA World Cup, sheds some light on his listening pleasures.
“I like all kinds of music; it depends on the mood I am in. I have some playlists for before the matches and different ones when I’m at home relaxing.
“I listen to dance music, such as David Guetta, Avicii, or Armin van Buuren, to get ready to play and chill-out (music) when I want to keep quiet.”
Brought to Anfield for £6million by his one-time Tenerife manager Rafa Benitez, Luis was a hero to the Kop. Armed with the mix of craft and audacity that fans yearn for, he delivered the spectacular moments and came to the fore on the big occasion.
While every on-field showman sees some of their efforts break down, it is the desire to keep producing the magic instead of shying away that sets them apart. The brilliant Luis Garcia goals for the Reds include the wonderful guided strike beyond Chelsea’s Carlo Cudicini in the FA Cup semi-final, the outstanding header from the edge of the box against Anderlecht, and of course, the magnificent left-footed half-volley past Juventus’ Gianluigi Buffon in the Champions League quarter-final in 2005.
Understandably, he is still reminded of his controversial winner against Chelsea in the second leg of the Champions League semi-final, as he was adjudged to have just about forced the ball over the line. For Reds, and for referee Lubos Michel, it was a goal, and that is what the history books say.
It set up what surely still stands as the most incredible final in European Cup or Champions League history, as Benitez’ side came from 3-0 down at half-time to beat AC Milan on penalties in Istanbul. Luis has said that he would have taken the penalty from which compatriot Xabi Alonso equalised with the rebound, had he been able to get near the ball to grab it!
There was much to endear him to supporters and Luis played his part in maintaining team spirit. A fan of bands like The Killers, The Kooks, and Coldplay, he gives some insight into the dressing room atmosphere at the Merseyside club during his stay.
“I use to be the DJ in some of the teams I played in. At Liverpool, I liked to do it, and I also asked for the boys’ favourite songs so I could make a good mix.
“I also remember Jermaine Pennant and Pepe Reina being the DJs.”
The latter of those former Liverpool players was a hero as he made crucial shootout saves in the 2006 FA Cup final win over West Ham United and the 2007 Champions League semi with Chelsea. Luis unfortunately missed both of those games as he was suspended for the FA Cup showpiece and out injured for the final few months of 2006/07.
A ruptured ACL suffered in the 6-3 League Cup loss to Arsenal in January 2007 put him out of action for the remainder of his Anfield days. Luis departed for Atlético Madrid that summer, a club he had represented back in 2002/03 before Barcelona bought him back, and received a hero’s welcome when returning to Anfield with Atlético in the Champions League in November 2008.
Liverpool fans still sing about Luis drinking sangria and the ‘football heaven’ he brought, but some may not know about his skill with the strings. He mentioned this when asked if he has ever had to sing in front of teammates as part of an initiation in his career.
“I have never had to sing in front of a team, but when I was young I use to play the guitar. Me and a friend of mine sang a song and we also did a concert in my school.
“No singing for my teammates; I’m so bad!”
With Danish legend Michael Laudrup his favourite player growing up, Luis went on to emulate the midfield great by representing Barcelona. He was named alongside his Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard in the 2005 UEFA Team of the Year and also added the UEFA Super Cup (2005) and FA Community Shield (2006) to his honours list while in England.
Luis scored twice in league wins over Everton and also netted against them in Jamie Carragher’s testimonial at Anfield in 2010. He still fervently follows Liverpool and with 30 goals in 121 games for the club he was named at number 34 in the 2013 list of ‘100 Players Who Shook The Kop’.
That countdown also featured Finnish duo Sami Hyypiä (at number 10) and Jari Litmanen (76), Danes Jan Mølby (23) and Daniel Agger (45), and Norwegian favourite John Arne Riise (43). There was a place at number 83 for ex-Sweden defender Glenn Hysén and it just so happens that Luis went for some Swedes of his own with one of the first records he ever bought.
“I remember buying Ace of Base when I was 13 or 14, but I’m not sure if it was the first one.”
In his final season with the Reds, Luis got to work with one of the most outspoken British players of his generation. The undoubtedly gifted and now-retired Welsh forward was also responsible for a memory that still raises a smile from Luis.
“I remember Craig Bellamy singing to one of the young boys (at the club), ‘because you are beautiful’ – it gave us a good laugh!”
It is unclear whether that song was by James Blunt, Christina Aguilera, or just one from Craig Bellamy’s imagination, but Luis has witnessed his share of interesting music in one form or another. After Atlético Madrid, came spells with Racing Santander, Greek side Panathinaikos, and three years in Mexico, split between top-level clubs Puebla and Pumas UNAM.
With all the multi-national dressing rooms he has been part of, Luis has taken in some varying genres of music, but he tries to appreciate each one, to a certain degree.
“I can’t remember a bad one; just different styles. In Mexico, music is different, and so it is in India.
“If you listen to it for a long period, you get tired of it, and they’d say the same with my music.”
Initially calling time on his career in January, he took up the offer to become captain of Atlético de Kolkata in the newly-formed Indian Super League six months later. The club is owned by the Kolkata Games and Sports Pvt. Ltd. consortium, which includes Spanish champions Atlético Madrid, as well as legendary former India cricket captain Sourav Ganguly.
Announced as the ISL’s first team in May, ATK won their first game as they defeated Mumbai City 3-0 at home in October. The league is brimming with veteran international stars and they include Alessandro Del Piero (Delhi Dynamos), David Trezeguet (FC Pune City), Robert Pirès (FC Goa), Fredrik Ljungberg (Mumbai City), David James (Kerala Blasters player-manager), and Elano (Chennaiyin FC).
Luis is ATK’s marquee player and he has so far scored two goals and provided two assists in his first nine games, teeing up Czech teammate Jakub Podaný in the 1-1 draw with FC Pune City at the weekend. ATK, managed by former Valencia boss Antonio López Habas, have a number of Spaniards in the squad, including ex-Real Madrid midfielder Borja Fernández and Luis’ former Liverpool colleague Josemi in defence.
After the opening 11 games, the West Bengal outfit are 2nd in the ISL, two points behind Chennaiyin FC. Luis describes how he and his young family have been adapting to life in India, as well as his impressions of the backing the team gets at the huge Salt Lake Stadium.
“We are enjoying everything. Every time we go on the street it is an adventure and we always find something different; the food, the people, the views.
“People are so friendly and we are amazed with the support, with 40 or 50 thousand at every game.”
Also counting Real Valladolid and CD Toledo (both on loan) amongst his former clubs, Luis is adding some enjoyable closing paragraphs to a terrific career story. Turning out for his country in the biggest tournament of all, he also achieved something that millions dream of when lifting the Champions League on that surreal night in May 2005.
There were many moments along the way that contributed to Liverpool reaching the final and then going on to clinch the trophy. Luis came up with some of the most notable contributions in the knockout phase, as he scored five goals en route to the final and gave supporters of all ages memories to hold onto.
The elation-fuelled charge towards Jerzy Dudek after his penalty save from Milan’s Andriy Shevchenko secured the Reds’ fifth success in the prestigious competition is a moment that will never be topped for Luis. He may not have taken one of the penalties in Istanbul but it is now time to put him on the spot.
Every player interviewed on here is asked to put together a 5-a-side team for the final question. This fantasy line-up should include the interviewee, so we need four of their best career teammates to fill the other positions.
Luis introduces his selection and it is fair to say that it ranks as one of the very best any player has chosen for this site since it began three years ago. Season tickets to watch this team would be snapped up in extremely rapid fashion!
“Pepe Reina in goal. Pepe was a wall at Liverpool and we were very lucky to have him.
“(Carles) Puyol, because I met him when we were young and also when he was captain of Barcelona. The way he became one of the best defenders in history made me choose him.
“Steven Gerrard in midfield. He, Xabi Alonso and Xavi Hernández have been my source of (receiving) the ball when I played with them and it is difficult to leave one on the bench.
“Ronaldinho – probably the best player I’ve ever played with (at Barcelona). The best player in the world at that moment.”
To catch each of these music/football interviews, follow me on Twitter – @chris_brookes
You can also like Beats & Rhymes FC on Facebook