Rayo Vallecano winger Alvaro Garcia is a mainstay these days at Vallecas, and one of the most challenging wingers for any defence to deal with. Yet he came into his own at the top level later than most, after Rayo signed him five years ago, at the age of 26.
It means he has seen several different sides of the game, not always being sure that he could earn a living from the game. During a recent interview with JotDown Sport, as covered by Diario AS, Garcia assessed a number of the managers he has had.
For him, the one that made the difference was Alvaro Cervera during his time at Cadiz in the third tier.
“My life changed after Alvaro Cervera arrived. I played fifteen or twenty minutes, but once he arrives, everything changes. I start playing on the wing, because he wants fast wingers, so I no longer had to play inside, but rather as a pure winger, and then I made my qualities shine more.”
“He is a very peculiar man. He’s of few words. But with those he opens up to, he really does it. I can tell you my case. Above all, because in the end, I saw myself as if I were him when he was a footballer. Alvaro played cutting inside. He was left-footed but he played on the right. And he always told me that if he scored two goals in a game he felt like he had credit for two or three weeks. And he relaxed. And until people jumped on him he didn’t push again. And he told me: ‘Alvaro, don’t do that, don’t even think about it’.”
“Now the memory of the last Second League B game comes to mind, before the play off. Suddenly, in the pre-match talk, he started talking to us about life and we were left looking at each other. And he, meanwhile, telling us a story about a tortoise and a hare. ‘What is this man saying?’, we said to ourselves. But then, when it finished, we all realised that it helped us leave our minds blank, to free it, and when we went into the game we did it with more enthusiasm, because Alvaro was like that.”
One of his former coaches, Michel Sanchez, is currently receiving plenty of praise, with his Girona joint-top of the table alongside Real Madrid. Garcia notes that he has improved his game since he was dealing with him.
“He plays spectacular football at Girona. Here he already showed that idea, which now he has improved it a lot and the truth is that it shows. But I’m not going to fool you if I admit that it wasn’t easy for me with Michel. I came from being a pure winger. Long balls behind the back of the defence and running.”
“I wenton the counter, I defended deep. And yet, at Rayo it was about having the ball. I played with my back turned, which was not one of my virtues. And, for me, the adaptation was very complicated because adapting to the city doesn’t… that doesn’t matter. Furthermore, I already knew Madrid.”
Meanwhile Paco Jemez also had a spell with Rayo during his time there, but Garcia was not overly impressed with his return to Vallecas.
“Yes, he was a demanding man with a good idea of football. But maybe the footballers we had were not the right ones. And I can’t tell you much about him. For me, he was just another coach. I have clearly defined those who marked me, and those were the ones who increased my potential. And Paco, for me, was not one of them.”
Andoni Iraola on the other hand is the manager he speaks most highly of, excepting Cervera. The Basque manager might not be having the best time at Bournemouth, yet Garcia vouches for his work.
“Andoni is a guy who is very smart in every regard. He had everything under control. We arrived and knew what to do at all times, even the substitutes. What’s more, we know what we would have had to do with him if he had stayed. He had everything thought through entirely. He was incredible.”
Iraola called a meeting with the squad after speculation linked him with a move to Leeds United last spring, but the former Athletic Club player told them he would not leave them hanging. Garcia himself is not keen on becoming a coach, in spite of Iraola’s encouragement.
“No, no. I don’t think I would like to be a coach. I don’t even know if I have that gift. Andoni Iraola told me yes, ‘you will be a coach.’ And I told him no, and he insisted that ‘you have to be a coach no matter what.’ He told me that I am very smart, because I quickly see where our rivals are hurting us. And since I said it to him and helped him correct him on the issue of pressure and helping my teammates, he valued it a lot.”
Many had doubts about Rayo’s current coach, Francisco, who came in with a spotty record at Almeria and Elche in La Liga. Garcia seems pleased with his approach too though.
“He has tried to continue with the same idea as Iraola. Everyone says what they want online. But once Andoni decides to leave and tells us that he has finished a cycle, a coach must come. Either you bring Zidane, which is impossible, or no one is going to come who everyone will agree with. But Francisco is doing very well and from what he is demonstrating so far, his idea is similar. He has done what we did with Andoni with his own nuances. And it suits us very well.”