With his family ardent Barcelona supporters and having dreamt of playing in the Camp Nou for his boyhood heroes, it took a lot of courage and conviction for Eric Garcia to leave them two years ago.
Reflecting on the bold decision to join Manchester City after nine years growing through the ranks at the famed La Masia Academy, the 18-year-old has no regrets. And nor should he.
Having come off the bench for his Premier League debut in the enthralling 8-0 win over Watford last weekend, Garcia then started, and impressed, at Preston as City comfortably opened the defence of the League Cup with a 3-0 success.
Manager Pep Guardiola has predicted a bright future for the centre-back – and promised more opportunities in the first team with Aymeric Laporte and John Stones sidelined by injuries and midfielder Fernandinho currently being used alongside Nicolas Otamendi in the backline.
“My family supports Barcelona, I was with them, so they were my team when I was young,” Garcia told Sport360 exclusively.
“But you need to make decisions in your life. To leave my family there and come to play here with City was the best decision I could make.
“Of course there’s the pressure of what’s going to happen when you go, coming to a new country, a new language and everything with this. But I wanted to do this. I have confidence and belief.
“At the end, the key is to be calm and then the opportunities will arrive.
“I’m very young and I know I need to work hard, but maybe one day I could be there in the [City] first team and helping them win trophies. We will see. I hope I get my chance, but it’s the manager who decides, so we will see.”
Pep on Eric Garcia:— Man City | Superbia (@SuperbiaProeIia) September 21, 2019
"He's going to play. He's going to play a lot of games, a lot of minutes because I trust him a lot, a lot." pic.twitter.com/xfl7FaFeYf
Garcia’s composure, control on the ball and calm authority has belied his teenage years.
They are traits he picked up while watching former Barcelona captain Carles Puyol – also the man who arranged his move to City – lead the Catalan giants to glory.
During a four-year period from 2008, coached by Guardiola and inspired by Lionel Messi, they won 14 trophies to become the world’s finest club side.
“I was always a defender and, because I was with Barcelona, my kind of idol was Carles Puyol,” said Garcia, whose City side visit Everton on Saturday before hosting Dinamo Zagreb in the Champions League on Tuesday.
Yet recalling Puyol’s rugged style, with a smile, he added: “We are different, it’s true. He was so aggressive, but I try to learn the things that make him so good, the way he defended and coped with situations because he was so calm.
“I try to do the things he did because he was a real leader in the team, inside and outside of the team. That’s probably why he was my idol.
“Nowadays training with these guys at City I am learning from them. Most of the centre backs, Nico, Aymeric, they speak Spanish, so we talk, but also with John we talk and they all try to help me and give me advice.
“At the end of the day we play together and, as centre backs, we have to speak to each other in the games a lot so I try to learn from them.
“They just tell me to be calm and to speak a lot, there has to be lots of communication. I’m really happy to make my debut in the Premier League.
“Honestly, I don’t feel any pressure because all the players and the staff give me confidence so I am just happy to play.
“At this moment this is my first year fully training with the senior team so I need to get the movement and everything within the team, to work with them. But I feel ready.
“In training I feel good, but the games are different so I need to go step by step. My target is to train hard every time and if the manager decides if I need to play then I need to be ready for it.
“But when you play with these kind of players it’s easy because they are the best players in the world, really amazing.”
Best way to start the Carabao Cup💪 incredible performance from everyone against a really tough team. Thanks to the travelling fans for the incredible support💪🔥🔥🔵 pic.twitter.com/WqYyWua0ha— Eric Garcia Martret (@ericgm3) September 24, 2019
Garcia, who also won the Under-17 and Under-19 European Championships with Spain, has been eager to learn since becoming part of the first-team set-up this summer.
And he believes he is witnessing something special, something unique, from a side that won a domestic treble of league, FA Cup and League Cup last season.
“Watching this team, like the game [against Watford], the first 12 minutes was just unbelievable,” added Garcia.
“I haven’t seen anything like that, never. That first 12 minutes, then to come on and play with this team, it was just an amazing feeling.
“I grew up watching Barcelona and probably there are similarities. It’s true that Barcelona, under Pep, that they were fantastic, won so many trophies, but I think we are different to them.
“We are trying to win the same, but I think we are more together as a team.
“Barcelona had Messi, Xavi, [Andres] Iniesta, more key players, but I think we are altogether stronger as a team.”
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