European football, in its truest sense, returned to Anfield in the 2-0 win over Monaco which saw Liverpool plant the red flag on the Group A summit. While the goals by Djibril Cissé and Milan Baros each highlighted a different strand of the striking arts, the craft and cunning of Luis Garcia did most to send the crowd home happy.
Garcia, 26, was born a month after Kenny Dalglish conjured the goal against Bruges at Wembley by which Liverpool retained the European Cup in 1978. These are early days in his new life and Garcia is slight whereas the Scot was strong, yet many present on Wednesday were reminded of Dalglish's clever linking of midfield and attack.
On his arrival from Barcelona for £6m, Garcia was dubbed "the beach boy" by the Liverpool manager, Rafael Benitez. Although the epithet was a comment on his easy-going lifestyle - Benitez first worked with his compatriot at Tenerife - it could easily have been a tribute to his capacity for sweet harmony with an advanced forward. Cissé and Baros have so far struggled to forge a partnership. Garcia, however, has demonstrated the ability to dovetail with either the Frenchman or the Czech from a withdrawn role, rather as Dalglish, relying on speed of thought more than pace, did with Ian Rush. In fact, Garcia cites Michael Laudrup, formerly the creative hub of Barcelona, as his role model - and Benitez as his mentor. "He has always shown a lot of faith in me," said Garcia, "and the fact that I gave up my home and family in Barcelona to come to Merseyside shows the faith I have in him." The other captures from Spain, Xabi Alonso and Josemi, may be less easy on the eye, but each contributed handsomely.
Alonso's passing range made the £10.5m recruit from Real Sociedad a more positive foil for Steven Gerrard than Dietmar Hamann while Josemi, a £2m buy from Malaga, was sound at right-back. Liverpool's next group game is against Olympiakos, followed by back-to-back encounters with Deportivo La Coruña, but they scarcely have time to look ahead.
On Monday, they visit Manchester United, where the atmosphere should go some way towards establishing whether Garcia's talent is complemented by the necessary temperament and toughness.Reuse content