Girona has 12 wins, two defeats, and one draw so far, the same as serial champion Real, and is four points above third-placed Barcelona, having scored more goals than any other side in the top flight ahead of its trip to Barcelona on Sunday.
“Girona have just come out of nowhere,” Garcia told Reuters in Bengaluru, adding that he saw parallels between its rise and Leicester City’s fairytale Premier League title win in the 2015-16 season.
“It’s the new Leicester, right? With Leicester I remember the talk was exactly the same - ‘Oh, you know, they will drop.’”
After earning Premier League promotion in 2014, Leicester needed a remarkable late rally to avoid relegation the following season, before embarking on its incredible title run in the subsequent campaign.
Girona, which was promoted via a playoff in the 2021-22 season and finished 10th in La Liga last season, seems to be following a similar script.
“Why can’t it be Girona?” Garcia said. “They don’t have European competition. They don’t have many international players.
“They can rest, they can rotate every week, and they can put out their best 11 every single weekend. It isn’t easy to beat this team.
“Will they feel the pressure in the last part of the season? They might. But we said the same of Leicester.”
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Atletico Madrid is the only team apart from Real and Barcelona to have won La Liga in the past decade, claiming the title in 2014 and 2021, but Garcia believes greater investment means the European soccer landscape is poised to change.
“We can see it already with Newcastle (United). That’s why football is such a followed sport all around the world. We like to see the top teams competing for every single trophy. But we all love a dark horse. We all love it.”
Two decades ago, Garcia was part of the 2003-04 Barcelona squad that had one hand on the title only to drop 10 points over the final two months of the season before finishing second to Valencia.
“I grew up following Barcelona,” he said. “(Missing) That opportunity to win La Liga was a massive blow for me.”
Barcelona won the league next season, but by then Garcia had moved to Liverpool, where he won the Champions League and the FA Cup but not the Premier League trophy.
“It was so difficult. The Premier League was a dream for us,” he added.
But Liverpool under Juergen Klopp is completely different to the team that Garcia was part of, and the Spaniard believes it means business this season and could seal a second league title in four years.
“This squad is very competitive,” he said. “I know it’s not going to be easy, but it’s not going to be easy for anyone.
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