“I feel very good and I’m confident that I can give things to the team, and hopefully at the weekend I can play a little bit”: Luis Garcia, pictured at Sydney Airport on Thursday morning. Photo: Twitter: @luchogarcia14It was the airport arrival of a high-profile star many Central Coast Mariners fans waited years for and then the sudden jolt of reality none of them wanted to hear. When former Atletico Madrid, Liverpool and Barcelona star Luis Garcia emerged from the gates of Sydney Airport at sunrise on Thursday morning, the Mariners’ new marquee was quickly swamped by about 50 fans that made the long trip down the Pacific Highway to welcome him to the A-League.
But no sooner than the cheers die down did the 37-year-old Spaniard provide an honest assessment of his role at the bottom-placed club and their fortunes for the season.
“I don’t think I can lift them up, I think I can help to put something good into the team,” Garcia said. “After that the club is mainly going to be there for bringing new players and trying to change the situation of the team. All together, I think we can do something good.”
What he did promise, though, was to repay the faith of the Mariners and help develop their squad full of promising youngsters. After all, the club gave him a chance to resume his playing career after more than a year’s hiatus after he last played in the Indian Super League.
“Garcia In” was the sign raised at by the club’s fans who cheered his arrival and promptly swamped their new star for autographs.
“It’s fantastic to receive that welcome from the people and hopefully I can return that on the pitch,” Garcia said.
He says it took little time for the Mariners to convince him to resume his playing career and abandon his post at global TV network beIN Sports where he had worked as a pundit during his year off field.
The club’s ambition to develop youngsters inspired the veteran to strap his boots on again and he believes he still has a lot to offer and assist particularly with guiding young players.
“Actually they called me. It wasn’t in my mind to come back and play football. I was happy working for beIN Sports … I was alright but I wasn’t missing football so much and when they call me and say ‘listen, come here we have a fantastic support from our supporters, we have a nice place, a nice stadium so maybe you can come out here’. I didn’t think about it too much,” he said.
At his age and having spent a year away from the game, major concerns were held over Garcia’s fitness and ability to compete in a league as physical as the A-League and played during the hot Australian summer.
Garcia acknowledges his pace and stamina is not what it was when he helped Liverpool to the UEFA Champions League title – but says he is in good shape and is experienced enough to know how to get the most out of his body.
“It’s alright. I have to take care of some stuff, don’t get crazy, don’t try to think that I’m 25 anymore. I’m not. But I feel very good and I’m confident that I can give things to the team, and hopefully at the weekend I can play a little bit if the coach is alright with that. I’ll be here to help,” he said. Ready for my new journey. Exciting challenge ahead. @CCMariners#[email protected]苏州半永久纹眉/tZGuq0eHoQ— Luis Garcia (@LuchoGarcia14) January 19, 2016