Barcelona center-back Eric Garcia has explained why he has opted to wear the No. 24 at the Camp Nou following his return to the club after three years with Premier League side Manchester City.
The 20-year-old wore the number for the first time on Sunday when he made his debut against Real Sociedad in Barcelona’s opening La Liga game of the season at the Camp Nou.
Garcia has told Edu Polo at Mundo Deportivo that the decision to take the No. 24 was influenced by former captain and club legend Carles Puyol. He explained, “It is true that there were not many to choose from, but it happened that they gave me a photo of Puyol with the 24 and I decided to take it.”
Puyol wore the 24 at Barcelona for two seasons in the early days of his career from 2000-02. The center-back then switched to the No. 5 which he used for the rest of his career at the Camp Nou until he finally hung up his boots in 2014.
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Garcia Talks Puyol & Pique Influences
Garcia also spoke about the influences both Puyol and Gerard Pique have had on his career. The center-back knows both players well after coming through the club’s La Masia academy before his stint at Manchester City.
The youngster made his admiration for Puyol crystal clear. He added, “I had a lot of contact with him for years, then in Manchester not so much, but he is my reference, my idol, I grew up watching him play at the Camp Nou. Now that it’s my turn to play on the field, it’s an incredible feeling.”
Garcia featured alongside Pique in Sunday’s 4-2 win over Real Sociedad and was also full of praise for his teammate. He explained, “Hopefully in a few years I can say that I have had the career that Gerard Piqué has had and has, he has been and is one of the best center-backs there has been. Playing alongside him and learning from him in training is incredible.”
Garcia Hoping For Regular Place
Coach Ronald Koeman’s decision to throw Garcia straight into the starting XI against Real Sociedad was something of a surprise given he did not feature in preseason as he was at the Tokyo Olympics with the Spain squad.
Even Garcia admitted it was a shock to be named in the starting XI with Pique but he is now hoping he can nail down his spot and become a regular in his first season back at the Camp Nou
“The truth is that everything has been very fast and I did not expect to play the game against Real Sociedad, but I am very grateful for the confidence that the coach has given me,” he said. “The other day we complemented each other very well. It’s the first game and you can’t draw too hasty conclusions either, but I felt very comfortable playing alongside him.”
Garcia looks to have a big future ahead of him at Barcelona but will have stiff competition for a place this season with Ronald Araujo, Clement Lenglet, and Oscar Mingueza also in the squad.