Atletico Madrid are enjoying a fabulous season, which leaves them joint top of the League at the half way point. And although all the plaudits are going towards the tactical genius of Coach Diego Simeone and the goals of Diego Costa, there is one member of the side who is going about his work quietly but effectively.
Raul Garcia joined Los Colchoneros in 2007 for an eye opening fee of €13m from his hometown club Osasuna. The Pamplona born attacking midfielder was a vital component of the Rojillos side that remarkably finished 4th in 2005/06 season under the stewardship of Javier Aguirre. The following season the Navarran side went on to the semi-finals of the Uefa Cup, and his performances didn't go unnoticed by Aguirre, by this time manager of Atletico, who brought the influential midfielder to the Calderon.
Garcia has never been considered an influential member of the squad despite winning the Uefa Cup, Uefa Super Cup and Copa del Rey with the side. His career looked to be going backwards when he was loaned back to Osasuna in 2011/12, but it proved to be the turning point for Garcia. He ended that season with 11 goals from midfield, and this term is finally showing his great talent at the top end of European football.
Despite not being the centre of attention this season he has already clocked up ten goals in 21 games, even with Simeone using him as a substitute more often than not.. With Diego Costa being handed the responsibility of scoring all the goals, the help of the attacking midfielder is a great asset to their title bid. When Costa isn't firing, Garcia has been there to provide more than adequate back up to the Brazilian. His goalscoring record is better than a lot of strikers in the division, made even better when you consider that 8 of his appearances have been from the bench.
The former Spain Under-21 international is certainly enjoying the best season of his career, and although it's taken a while they are finally getting the best out of him. Deployed as what the Italians would term ‘a trequartista’ at Osasuna, he's rarely been given this license at Atletico but this season Simeone has granted him this freedom and the results are there for all to see. The Navarran is a technically gifted player, with brilliant feet, but what gives him an extra edge is his aerial ability. Although not the biggest size, he's not scared to mix it with the biggest centre halves and often comes out on top, and it's that physical power that gives him an extra edge over most attacking midfielders.
His performances are starting to draw attention from Europe's top teams this January, and with Inter Milan's interest already having been rebuffed, it is rumoured that the Spaniard is subject to interest of Manchester United this window, and although he could be a perfect fit at Old Trafford, it is unlikely that Simeone will let one of his key men depart at such a key stage of potentially a great season for Los Rojiblancos.