A valuable asset

Luis Garcia has settled well at Anfield, although he has been in and out of the side. His first season contained a number of indifferent displays but was notable for vital goals against Juventus and Chelsea as Liverpool dramatically won Europe's elite club competition, writes Andy Hampson.

Luis Garcia is a versatile, attack-minded player who has played in a number of positions throughout his career, chiefly as a central or wide midfielder or as a deep-lying striker. His current club Liverpool have particularly exploited his versatility, using him effectively during their Champions League-winning run in 2005. He has a reputation for inconsistency and has consequently struggled to hold down a regular place, but his knack for scoring crucial goals and his unpredictability make him a valuable asset to the squad.

Garcia was born in Badalona, on the outskirts of Barcelona and was picked up by the mighty Barca as a youngster. He came through the youth ranks at the Nou Camp but was unable to break into the first team and was sold to Real Valladolid in 1999, on the proviso Barca could buy him back in the future. Valladolid actually loaned him out first to Toledo and then Tenerife, where he first came under Rafael Benitez's stewardship and scored 16 goals to help the islanders win promotion.

He made a brief return to Valladolid but Barca bought him back and promptly loaned him to Atletico Madrid. He impressed with nine goals in the 2002-03 season and was then finally given a chance at Barca, whom he helped to second in the Primera Liga in 2004 with some effective performances.

Yet his travels were to continue, however, as the club were prepared to let him go when Benitez, newly installed as Liverpool manager enquired about him.

He has settled well at Anfield, although he has been in and out of the side. His first season contained a number of indifferent displays but was notable for vital goals against Juventus and Chelsea as Liverpool dramatically won Europe's elite club competition. His second season followed a similar pattern, with Garcia netting a brilliant winner against Chelsea in the semifinals of the FA Cup, which the Reds went on to win without him due to his suspension from the final.

Garcia demonstrated his ability with a sublime lob to send Liverpool into the FA Cup final at the expense of Chelsea last year but in his very next game he was sent off against West Ham after clashing with opponent Hayden Mullins. As a result the pair were both suspended and denied the chance to face each other again in the final at the Millennium Stadium.

His 2006-07 season came to a premature end when he suffered an anterior cruciate ligament injury in a game against Arsenal in January.

It was through bad luck with injuries that Garcia's international debut was delayed until March 2005. Garcia was twice previously named in the Spanish squads only to be forced to pull out. He eventually secured a place in the team and went to Germany for the 2006 World Cup.

Garcia has a five-year contract at Anfield but admitted there were times during his first season when he wondered if he could last in England because of the difficulties he and his wife Raquel had in adjusting to life so far away from home. He says those problems have now begun to resolve themselves with Raquel becoming more confident with her English and their son, Joel, starting nursery and also learning the language. Garcia celebrates every goal he scores by sucking his thumb to imitate Joel.

Garcia has been seen in the Anfield car park in a large black SUV, but he admitted in a recent interview that he prefers a couple of his team-mates' cars. He is impressed by Boudewijn Zenden's Lamborghini and Craig Bellamy's Bentley, but the one he really likes is Peter Crouch's Aston Martin DB9.

FACTFILE Name: Luis Garcia Position: Midfielder Club: Liverpool DOB: 24/06/78 Spain Caps: 18 Spain Goals: 4 Spain debut: v China, March 2005 Moment to remember

Garcia will not forget his Champions League semifinal winner against Chelsea — to which debate still rages over whether it crossed the line — or his FA Cup goal against the same team. In terms of his international career, however, it was his hat-trick for Spain against Slovakia in a 5-1 World Cup qualifying win in Madrid in November 2005 that really put him on the map.

Moment to forget

Liverpool had a miserable few days in January when they were dumped out of two cup competitions at home by Arsenal. The first saw their reign as FA Cup holders end dismally as they went down 3-1 and then, three days later, a much-changed side was routed 6-3 in the Carling Cup. Garcia featured in both and saw his season come to an end as he suffered a serious injury in the latter.

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