Mariners snare Liverpool legend Luis Garcia

Central Coast Mariners have broken the bank to become the first A-League club to announce a major marquee capture this season with former Liverpool, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid maestro Luis Garcia agreeing to join the struggling outfit until at least the end of the 2015-2016 campaign.

Luis Garcia

Source: Getty Images

The revered Spanish midfielder showed at the age of 37 he still has star dust in his boots with two goals for the Liverpool Legends in their 4-0 whitewash of the Australian Legends at ANZ Stadium last week.

Central Coast coach Tony Walmsley and owner Mike Charlesworth are convinced the 2005 UEFA Champions League winner will send interest in a competition starved of stars soaring during his 14-game guest stint.

While the deal is done, the Mariners, who sit bottom of the ladder and are the competition's most under-funded club, are seeking to attract sponsors to help them pay for Garcia’s stay.

Garcia, who played for Spain at the 2006 FIFA World Cup and was also an FA Cup winner while at Anfield in 2006, scored 31 goals in 122 appearances for Liverpool, where his ‘ghost' goal against Chelsea which saw the Reds through to the final of the 2005 Champions League final is still debated among football fans.

Liverpool went on to overcome a 3-0 deficit in the final against AC Milan to win on penalties in a game etched into Anfield folklore, with Garcia lining up alongside Australia great Harry Kewell, who forced off with injury in the first-half.

Garcia's last professional gig of a 19-year career, which has spanned 13 clubs (including loan spells), was with the Indian Premier League-winning Atletico Kolkata in 2014, and though he has been in a hiatus since, both Walmsley and Charlesworth are convinced that, as he demonstrated at ANZ Stadium, he retains the trickery and finesse which won him 20 caps for Spain and brought him 424 games at club kevel in a career which took place in Spain, England, Mexico, Greece and finally India.

It’s understood Garcia was approached by the Mariners after his performance for Liverpool’s Legends side in Sydney, and terms were agreed on Friday night for a stint which Charlesworth believes sums up the club's aspirations to “surprise” the competition this season.

“Signing a genuine marquee like Luis Garcia is just another example of the strategy,” Charlesworth told The World Game.

“It also puts the A League back on the global map, which will stimulate growth and help us develop football in Australia through the A-League, which is the only way.

“That’s really what this is all about, giving the competition a bit of a lift and showing that we have the ambition and the will to do something different.”

“He’s probably the only true global star to be play in the A-League this season and for the Mariners to sign him is a true testament of the management team we now have in place.”

Asked about Garcia’s fitness levels after being without a club for a year, Charlesworth replied: “I think we saw at ANZ Stadium what he is still capable of and we are satisfied he will be up to speed and will show his class in the A-League, and will attract crowds wherever he plays.”

Other than his glory years at Liverpool, where he also finished as Champions League runner up in 2007, Garcia had two spells at Atletico Madrid and played for Racing Santander, Panathinaikos and Mexican teams Puebla and Pumas UNAM.

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3 min read
Published 16 January 2016 at 5:48pm
By David Lewis