Interviews

The big interview: Luis Garcia – "At Liverpool, I worked with a sports psychologist... to block out Jamie Carragher’s voice!"

Luis Garcia
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Do you think the noise at Anfield got to Chelsea’s players during the 2005 Champions League semi-final second leg? They looked really rattled by it…
Dennis Monaghan, Crewe

I don’t know about that, but I had never – and still have never – been part of an atmosphere like that one. Chelsea were a better side than us over the whole season, but on that night we were much faster, stronger and hungrier than them, and that all came from the fans. You could feel the power of the people.

Be honest. Did you run off celebrating that goal (top) to convince the officials to give it? If so, then it worked!
Martin Richmond, via Facebook

No, I didn’t. I had the best view of anyone and I celebrated the goal because I truly believe that I saw the ball go over the line. It all happened so quickly but look at my movement when I hit the shot, and also as Chelsea try to clear the ball. It’s natural because I saw what I saw, and that was the ball crossing the line.

Is Jose Mourinho a friend of yours, and have you ever spoken to him about the ghost goal? I bet he’s still seething!
Joe Mallalieu, Manchester

He is. I knew him well from Barcelona and he tried to sign me when he went to Porto. After that semi-final he came up to me and wished me luck for the final. I have so much respect for him, as I saw how hard he worked to get to where he is now. He’ll always deny my goal, but if I was him I’d do the same.

Do you believe in ghosts?
Edward Patterson, London

Not any more! There is no such thing.

The Luis Garcia chant claims that you are 5ft 7in (and football heaven), but Wikipedia tells us you’re actually 5ft 9in. Were you offended that fans were claiming you were two inches shorter?
Eva Sisask, Estonia

Yes, they all got my height wrong! I love this song, though, and hearing it makes me so happy. That’s something I really love about English football – the chants that all the players get. They still sing it today too, which is very special for me.

And do you really drink Sangria?
Beth Lowen, Ringwood

Of course I drink it. I enjoy Guinness as well. I like to put some peaches into my Sangria. Lovely fresh peaches, though, not tinned. The secret is to put the fruit in with the wine and then let it sit for 24 hours. The sugar and the alcohol mix and it gives it that special taste.

What did Jamie Carragher say when he first saw you wearing a hair band?
JJ O’Rourke, Liverpool

He didn’t need to say anything because his expression just screamed, ‘What the f**k?’ Rafa wasn’t too happy either. One day there was myself, Harry Kewell and Milan Baros all standing in front of the mirror, putting on our hair bands. Baros was using hairspray as well! That didn’t go down well either, with Carra or Rafa.  

Were you surprised when you looked at the team-sheet in Istanbul and there was no Didi Hamann on it?
Andy Cantalion, Guildford

No, because I knew Rafa would always have his reasons. Rafa had surprised us a few times that season, even leaving Stevie out once or twice. Yes, this was the Champions League final, but Rafa was so switched on and always doing his homework, so you saw the line-up and just got on with things. I think he looked at Cafu at right-back for Milan and thought that Kewell could occupy him. Harry was unlucky. I worked with a lot of top players and, on a technical level, he was one of the best I ever saw. That night it didn’t work out for Harry, but Hamann was so professional that he didn’t sulk. Instead he came on at half-time and helped us turn it around.

Cafu has since admitted that he and his team-mates were celebrating at half-time in Istanbul. Would you have done the same thing in their position?
Ryan Dunphy, Norwood

We only saw the Milan players walking out of the dressing room at the start of the second half looking happy, but who wouldn’t? You can’t blame them for that – they were 3-0 up with 45 minutes left to play. I would be pretty happy too in that situation. They were all really happy and we were frustrated. But then when we were walking out we could hear the Liverpool fans singing, despite how bad it had been going on the pitch. It made you think, ‘Come on, let’s try our hardest to get something, or anything, from the match in the next 45 minutes. And let’s certainly not get absolutely slaughtered...’

They wouldn’t let me take a penalty! I wanted to take one but Rafa had got other ideas.

It’s the second half at the Ataturk Stadium. Steven Gerrard scores and then Vladimir Smicer grabs another one – 3-2. So what are you thinking?
Ben Valuks, London

Wow! Let’s just keep going. The second goal came so soon after the first one that suddenly you think, ‘This might be possible.’ Suddenly we had some hope. I looked around and saw these great Milan players, but I had hope. I won’t lie and say I saw in their eyes that they were gone, because they were too good for that, but what I felt was a positivity from us and I knew that we were good enough to be here and still win it. To be honest, beating Juve [in the quarters] was the one for me that season. They had a side with [Pavel] Nedved, [Lilian] Thuram, [Alessandro] Del Piero, [Zlatan] Ibrahimovic and [Mauro] Camoranesi. We’d already beaten them – now we were back in it and could beat Milan.

Why didn’t you take a penalty in the shootout? Did you want to take one?
Brian McLaughlin, New York

They wouldn’t let me take a penalty! I wanted to take one but Rafa had got other ideas. I think I would have been the sixth had it gone to sudden death.

Who got the most drunk afterwards?

Nick Kerwick, Liverpool
I can’t remember! [Laughs]

After clashing with Hayden Mullins at West Ham in 2006, you were sent off and suspended for the FA Cup final – how gutted were you to miss that?
Richard Pearson, via Twitter

I was so upset. I had been sent off and was still in the shower when Pepe Reina came in and said I would be banned for the final. I just couldn’t believe it. I had scored a great goal against Chelsea in the semi-final and was looking forward to the final, but I was out. Looking back now, it was my fault. I was held by their player, caught him with my elbow and when he pushed me I fell to the floor a bit too theatrically. If I had just stood up we might have been booked, but we were both sent off instead. The moral of the story, children, is don’t overreact!