Monday 23rd May 2005


Luis Garcia says that Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez has been a huge influence on his career and hopes to repay him with another huge goal in the UEFA Champions League final.

The diminutive Spaniard was brought to Anfield by Benitez last summer in a £6 million move from Barcelona. Garcia played under Benitez at Tenerife and says he has always had an affinity with the former Valencia manager.

"I first met Rafa six years ago in Tenerife," said Garcia. "He gave me a lot of confidence.

"He always believes in me and has always tried to give me what a player needs, the confidence on the pitch to do the right things.

"He has always been there to support me. He has been a massive influence on my career and I hope I can play for him for a long time.

"We won promotion with Tenerife and then went our separate ways, but I always felt I would play for him again.

"When he wanted to sign me from Barcelona to come to Liverpool I had no doubts about the choice. I jumped at it."

Benitez stuck by Garcia despite him struggling to adapt to the hustle and bustle of life in The Premiership at first, and that faith has reaped rewards in the second half of the season.

"I have had to change my game," admitted Garcia. "The play in England is very different to what I have been used to, certainly the strength of the tackling surprised me. I felt it would be tough, but not as tough as it was. I have had to learn quickly.
"I have got stronger as the season has gone on and more confident. Most of my goals have come in the second part of the season. I was happier and felt my team-mates had confidence in me as well as the manager and I expect to play much better next season."

Garcia has improved to such an extent that he has joined Milan Baros as the club's top goalscorer on 13 goals, and he would love to add to that tally in Istanbul on Wednesday.

The 26-year-old's attacking midfield role has been more effective in Europe, as he bagged three goals to see-off Bayer Leverkusen, spanked in a tremendous volley against Juventus and poached the goal that dumped Chelsea out in the semi-final.
Garcia wants to add to his run of important goals by scoring against Milan at the Ataturk Stadium.

"I am lucky to have scored in the big games, against Everton, Juventus and Chelsea. I am fortunate to have done that and it is only possible with help from my team-mates, but yes, I enjoy the big matches in Europe because they suit my style.

"This game is a very important one in the life of a player, all of us, so I do not intend to get nervous, just to enjoy the moment and to win.

"For everyone it is the most important game of our lives, especially for me. When I arrived here last summer I did not expect this, I hoped maybe some time in the future, but not in the first season."

Garcia's former Barca team-mates have just lifted the Primera Liga title this season, but he insists he made the right choice in joining Benitez on Merseyside.

"I have spoken to some of the players at Barcelona this week and they are very happy to have won the league.

"Maybe I could have been there with them but I have no regrets about this move.
"I am happy for them, but I think I made the best choice because I am playing in the European Cup final."

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News report filed by The Editor