Michael Baddeley continues the extremely popular summer transfer series featuring Luis Garcia and John Arne Riise.
Luis Garcia – £6 Million
Summer 2004, the start of a new era at Liverpool. In came Rafael Benitez, soon followed by four Spanish internationals. One being Luis Garcia. The little Spaniard was a graduate of the famous La Masia youth academy but was sold to Atletico Madrid in 2002, only to return back to Barcelona the following season.
Rafa was no stranger to Luis, he had previously managed him when in charge of Tenerife back in the 2000-01 season. A reign that proved successful for the two as they helped the club to promotion to La Liga.
It was evident from the start that Luis would be an integral part of the gaffers plans. Throughout his first season at the club he made a total of 44 appearances and scored a total of 13 goals, this making him joint top scorer with club captain Steven Gerrard and Milan Baros.
His contribution that lead to a fifth Champions League trophy back in 2005 is probably the thing Liverpool fans will best remember him for. On the road to Istanbul he bagged five goals. A hat trick of goals over the two games against Bayer Leverkusen started the scoring off.
“Le Tallac to Luis Garcia, tries his luck, oh what a goal! What a goal, what a night!” – you know the goal. That remarkable 30-yard goal vs Juventus at Anfield added another to his European collection and had the commentators going nuts, let alone the fans.
Then there was that slightly controversial goal against Chelsea. Mourinho was furious and labelled it a “ghost goal”, but too our delight we went on to Istanbul and made John Terry and Chelsea fans alike cry in the process, a priceless goal if you ask me.
He carried on his knack of getting important goals the following season. The most memorable being at Old Trafford in the FA Cup semi-final. Again it was against Chelsea but Mourinho couldn’t moan this time. Luis latched on to a loose header from William Gallas and hit a stunning half-volley into the corner of the goal. A goal that proved to be the winner in the end. Liverpool went on to the final, but unfortunately for Garcia he wasn’t eligible for selection after he received a red card vs West Ham in the league.
Unfortunately he ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament in his final season playing against Arsenal and was never to play for the club again. Regardless of that, Luis will always be seen as a player who was five-foot seven of football heaven that came from Barca to bring us joy. Unfortunately he was taken away by Atletico Madrid, but one thing is certain – he will always be a red. The fact that his song is still sung on the Kop nine years on proves this.
John Arne Riise – £4 million
The last decent left back we’ve had and to be honest the only real left back I remember. Riise was signed from Monaco back in the summer of 2001 by Houllier. It seemed he was set to join Fulham. Luckily we improved on the offer from the Cottagers and managed to hijack the move before it could be completed.
His seven years on Merseyside couldn’t have started any better. He made his debut in the UEFA Super Cup final vs Bayern Munich, a game in which he scored in and Liverpool would go on to win 3-2. He also added the Charity Shield to his honours within weeks of joining the club.
Throughout the season he proved that he wasn’t just a full-back who could defend. He was the full package. He contributed eight goals in all competitions. A exceptional return for a defender if you ask me. A brilliant solo effort against the bitter rivals from across Stanley Park was soon followed up by a bullet of a free kick against Man United, these were just two of the eight. The goal against United was one that Liverpool fans sung about for many years after that.
Despite having a few bad seasons on a personal level, he helped the club to another Charity Shield and a League Cup. The second of the two being his first major honour at the club. Unfortunately, the bad form resulted in him being dropped by Houllier, but was given a new leash on life when Benitez joined the club.
Another thunderbolt of a strike in the final of the League Cup vs Chelsea was the quickest ever seen in a final of the tournament. A brilliant season was capped off in Istanbul. Despite missing a penalty in the shootout he provided the assist for that vital Stevie G goal that sparked the greatest comeback in the history of European finals.
Another Super Cup and an FA Cup winners medal followed up next season. Another goal against Chelsea in the semi final of the latter of the two competitions helped the reds too a 2-1 win over Chelsea and then he converted a penalty in the final to help them lift the trophy.
He left for Roma in 2008, but after a very successful time on Merseyside Riise departed the club as a fan favourite. He’ll always be remembered for his thunderbolt strikes, his passion for the club and that assist for Gerrard back in 2005. Since leaving he’s admitted that he regretted the decision and has declared his love for the club numerous times. He made an outstanding 348 appearances and as an approval of his efforts at the club he was voted number 43 in the 100 Players Who Shook the Kop by the fans back in 2013.
Featured Image – Liverpool Echo