A year ago the much-maligned Javi Garcia was an eyesore for Manchester City fans every time he appeared on the team sheet. Following his £15.8m move from Portuguese giants Benfica to City, the 27-year-old midfielder struggled massively to adapt to the rigors of the Premier League.
Hampered by a thigh injury suffered in the Champions League against Borussia Dortmund only a two months into his City career, Garcia’s start was rocky to say the least. While there is usually a grace period afforded to new singings, Garcia tested City fans’ resolve last year with a slew of error-ridden performances. The former Real Madrid youngster couldn’t cope with the pace of the League and was often left wanting when faced with tricky or skilful players.
In fact, when Garcia did manage to get it right, his performances still paled in comparison to his peers. Each game was either a complete disaster or completely unmemorable. Things didn’t improve when he deputized at centre-back. His performances were often even more of a calamity as his lack of pace was routinely on full display.
This season however has proved to be a remarkable turnaround for Garcia. Though he’s largely been a squad player, filling in for Yaya Toure or Fernandinho when needed, he has been much more assured both in midfield and at the back. His performance in a centre-back role against Hull City, after club captain Vincent Kompany was shown a red card after 10 minutes, endeared him to the City faithful and was a testament to the effort he’s put in to improve.
Garcia has boasted excellent positional awareness this year, often sitting back allowing both Toure and Kompany to venture forward and join the attack without being exposed at the back.
But Garcia still remains a fairly limited midfielder attempting to make a Spain squad filled with world-class players. For his plaudits this year Garcia rarely has a large impact on the game and usually goes about his job without taking too many risks.
His last cap for La Furia Roja came last September in a friendly against Chile. Garcia’s performance was average at best – in fact most media outlets rated him the worst player on the pitch. He hasn’t featured for Spain since.
It’s almost impossible to find a place for Garcia in Del Bosque’s final 23-man squad. The fact remains there are simply far too many talented players who can easily fulfil his role while offering more. He does have the ability to play in both defensive midfield and centre-back, which could bode well for him when Del Bosque makes his final decision. But again both Sergio Busquets and Javi Martinez are much better hybrid options.
While Garcia’s recovery this season has been impressive it may end up being a case of too little too late for him this summer.