Garcia won't shut his box of tricks

IF there is one player who epitomises Liverpool's inconsistencies between the Champions League and the Premiership, it is Luis Garcia.

So often the likeable Spaniard has dazzled in the rarefied air of Europe only for his burgeoning talent to become lost in the hurlyburly of the more agricultural surrounds of everyday domestic life.

Garcia did more than most to propel Rafael Benitez's side to Istanbul glory in May, his goals against Bayer Leverkusen, Juventus and Chelsea among the high points of Liverpool's triumphant run to the final.

The 27-year-old will be asked to replicate that form when the European Champions take the next step in the defence of their trophy against Anderlecht at Anfield this evening.

Such reliability in the Premiership remains elusive, however. But after a disappointing start to the campaign, the signs have been encouraging in recent weeks, most notably during a man-of-the-match display against West Ham United on Saturday.

Garcia, though, insists he will not compromise the very attributes that can make him as infuriating as he is intoxicating. All his manager asks is for his tricks to become more regular treats.

"I think it is the same everywhere when you try to do something like a trick, something different, I understand that the supporters do not like it when it doesn't work, but that is my kind of game," says Garcia.. "Maybe one of these tricks can finish in a goal. That is how they have to think. I don't do these things to show off. If you try and do an easy pass it can be easy for the defender. It is because it is best for the team. The manager wants me to keep doing that - in different positions.

"I am not scared of having the ball, I always want the ball. But I have to learn where to do my tricks. For me, creativity is what I bring to the team. Every player has to give something to the team and that is mine. Being on the ball a lot in the Premiership is difficult because people are quick to tackle. If you go with the ball and dribbling all the time, people tackle you and push you. In Spain you would get more free-kicks. Here the referees let it go and you have to play quicker."

In his defence, Garcia could not have had a finer inspiration for his multitude of step-overs and backheels. Enter Ronaldinho, whom the Spaniard played alongside during his season at Barcelona in 2003-04.

"He is a great player," says Garcia. "I learned some things with him. When I was playing with him he would talk to me and say I am going to do this and the ball is going to go to you. Some of those things I try to bring to Liverpool. I like to learn about different players. I have copied some of his tricks!

"Players can be bracketed one to 10. If you know what to do all the time and you have good quality and a good worker then you are a 10. Ronaldinho for me is 9.99 because he has qualities, quick and brings a lot to the team. What am I? At the moment I need to learn when to do it, I need to improve my heading I need to improve a lot of things but I am trying, I am trying. A Seven? Maybe, I don't know."

Even Garcia's greatest supporter is the first to concede the Spanish schemer can be frustrating to watch. But having previously worked with him in the Tenerife side that won promotion to the Primera Liga in 2000-01, Benitez retains unshakeable belief in his player.

There's an element of frustration with him, but you need to accept that," says the Liverpool manager. "When you have a player like him, you know he'll lose the ball sometimes but he can also score fantastic goals - against Juventus last season - or pass balls to his team-mates that no-one was expecting. In the Premiership it's more physical for him and that's more difficult. If he must fight for a ball in the air, like he has to in England, it's harder for him. He has to be clever.

"At Tenerife he scored 16 goals playing as a left winger. I still tell him the things he must change but the only thing he has to understand is whether he's playing as a midfielder or a forward. "I'd say as a second striker is his best position where his movement, his awareness and his balance can best be employed. As a second forward with Crouch, for example, he can work well close to Crouch winning the second balls and benefiting from Crouch's game. Morientes, too, would play well with him, whereas Djibril is more of a runner. But we have necessities for different positions at the moment."

Despite his admiration for the player, Benitez has on occasion felt it necessary to remind Garcia of his responsibilities to the team, most pointedly on the eve of the UEFA Super Cup win over CSKA Moscow.

And Garcia reveals: "When I was in Tenerife he was saying the same. He is not like 'you did bad', but 'every day you have to think differently because then you will be able to do it in the game'. That is what I am trying to do to be a better player. I am not a strong type of player, my game is different. We try to improve certain things, try to change my play so I adapt to the Premiership. I think it is going well and I am improving. I am playing with more confidence. I am more relaxed, more at ease. The last game (West Ham) I did well because the things I did were all in the right positions. It is difficult and that is why he is still telling me. I don't forget, but I am confident in my ability and think this will work and then it doesn't."

And if Benitez doesn't tell him when he's made a mistake, there is always one player who will.

Says Garcia: "If I do a back-heel in not a good position, I hear Carra behind me shouting, 'No, no, not here!'"

The discrepancy between Liverpool's league and European form has been debated ad nauseum this season, something Garcia admits is justified.

"It doesn't annoy me," he says. I can understand why people say that. I think about trying to win the game and try and do my best, I don't think about whether it is Champions League or the Premiership.

They are different types of games. In the Champions League people try to play better because you have to score. It is important because there is a lot at stake in that one game. One goal can see you go through to the next round. Maybe teams are more attack-minded."

What does annoy Garcia, however, is the criticism being levelled at Benitez, with the Spaniard having no doubts his compatriot can handle the pressure which come with the territory as Anfield manager.

"In his career he has been in that kind of position with people questioning him your team is not doing well not in a good position in the table. He is stronger than that. He has a big wall he is able to put in front of him and that kind of thing doesn't affect him. He knows what to do to improve the team."

Copyright - Daily Post

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