Eric Garcia is one of 17 Barcelona players to have been called up to the FIFA World Cup. The 21-year-old defender, however, is yet to play any minutes for Spain in their two matches so far, with manager Luis Enrique preferring Rodri and Aymeric Laporte as his centre-back pairing.
Eric had started the season well for Barcelona but had his progress stall due to injuries. But after enduring a difficult debut season upon returning to the Catalan club last year, he has shown signs of growth.
And in a recent interview with EFE (h/t AS), the Barcelona and Spain defender discussed his time at Barcelona, his teammates Pedri, Gavi, the managers he has played under as well as the World Cup and Spain’s chances in the competition.
Just 21 years of age, he is playing for one of the best clubs in the world, is a regular for the Spanish national team, and is playing at the World Cup. And Garcia admits that it is the stuff of his dreams, as he said:
“The truth is that what I have been living these years is what you dream of since I was a child. I thought that I wish I could achieve what I am achieving at the moment, being present, and then hopefully we can win, which is what we are working for.”
Garcia’s club and international teammates, Pedri and Gavi, have been two of the standout performers at the World Cup so far. And the defender insisted that it makes him proud to see the young duo perform the way they are doing.
“They have that personality, that way of doing things on the pitch that makes them both unique, being different they complement each other very well,” he said.
“I am lucky enough to see them every day at Barça and at a World Cup, on the best stage against the best players of the moment. As a friend, I am proud to watch them.”
Despite their young careers, Pedri and Gavi have already been compared to Barcelona legends Andres Iniesta and Xavi, respectively. And Garcia insists that they can live up to the expectations, saying:
“They are on the right track, without a doubt. They are really very young and have a very high ceiling, with room for improvement but already playing at the level they are doing, they show what we can expect from them.”
On whether Spain can be considered as favourites for the World Cup after their strong start, Garcia said: “Our objective was to come here with a very clear idea of the game, and we believe in it to the death. We know that if we play our way we have a very good chance of winning. Our game is unique.
“I haven’t seen any team that does that. And from there, whether we are favourites or not is something we let them talk about, we have to prove it on the pitch, and on the 18th we will see who is there.”
Luis Enrique has previously spoken about how he sees Garcia as a potential manager in the future. Responding to those claims by Lucho, he said: “I could consider myself a football-sick person. So far I’ve watched all the World Cup matches that I haven’t been caught up in training.
“I watch all football in general, it helps you to see players in your position, things you can learn from and I like it a lot.”
On what he would take from Enrique’s coaching manual if he were to become a manager, Garcia said: If there’s one thing we all like about him, it’s his sincerity, the way he tells you things, whether it’s for good or bad.
“He reaches the player in an incredible way. At all times he is correcting you and demanding. That with everyone. It makes for an unbeatable atmosphere.”
On his takeaways from working with Pep Guardiola at Manchester City, Garcia said: “The attention to detail he gives to everything, before playing he tells you how the game is going to go, where the spaces are going to be and when you play it is what you have trained. Few people have that way of seeing football.”
Having worked under the likes of Enrique and Guardiola, Garcia is also getting a taste of the mentorship of Barcelona legend Xavi. Talking about the 42-year-old tactician, the defender said: “The same, Xavi has taken things from Luis Enrique and Guardiola, he is taking them to a level that we are starting to see this season.”
Eric could have won his first major title with Spain last year but La Roja stumbled in the final of the UEFA Nations League against France. The 21-year-old has still bitter feelings from that game, as he recalled:
“It was a game against France, the reigning world champions, we were playing a really good game against players of incredible individual talent. Afterwards, Mbappe’s goal was offside but I always believe that football gives you another chance.”
Talking about the favourites at the World Cup, Garcia insisted that the individual talents like Neymar, Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappe make Brazil, Argentina and France favourites, respectively.
“In terms of individual talent, Brazil, France and Argentina are teams with a very high level of individual talent, but that’s where our strength comes in. We don’t have such outstanding individual talents as they have with Messi, Neymar or Mabppé, he said.
Talking about the strengths of the Spain team, he added that La Roja were stronger as a unit even though they do not have a megastar in their ranks.
“But with the players we have and the importance of the group, we can stand up to any team. Nobody would say no to having Messi in the team, we’re not going to fool ourselves, but I think our strength is the team. It’s what has got us this far by playing this way and we’re very excited,” he added.
Garcia also spoke about the sudden retirement of Barcelona legend Gerard Pique, who hung up his boots earlier this month. Hailing the former defender for his legendary career, the youngster said:
“He is a legend of Spanish football, a legend of Barça, an incredible person who has helped me a lot. He is going to be missed a lot. What he has achieved is the maximum. I hope that in a few years’ time I can match his achievements.”
On the possibility that he can start for Spain against Japan in their final group encounter, Garcia added: “In the end, it’s the coach who decides who is going to play. Whether I play or not, I’ll be at my best with the team, supporting them.
“If it’s my turn to play, I’ll have to give my best to repay Luis Enrique’s trust and if not, I’ll support the team as I have done so far. Those of us on the bench add a lot to those on the pitch.”
Signing off, Garcia insisted that Spain’s aim was to win the World Cup and they will continue to take it game-by-game, saying: “It’s our objective, starting from humility, focusing only on the next match, but yes, we can dream.”