In four years he has gotten the ticket back to Camp Nou, the one that so many sigh for when they leave La Masia and that only a few get, perhaps Gerard Piqué and Cesc Fábregas after their stints at Manchester United and Arsenal. Now it is the turn of the central Eric García (Martorell, Barcelona; 20 years old), trained in Can Barça from prebenjamines tanned in the Manchester City of Guardiola and already international with the selection of Luis Enrique, summoned for the Eurocopa. With the letter of freedom under his arm, Eric will sign this Tuesday until 2026, will have a clause of 400 million and will be presented to the fans at 14:30. A return that has cost its own, but the best of news for the remodeling low cost that the sports area intends, Kun Agüero (City) already presented and the signing of Wijnaldum (Liverpool) almost closed, also waiting for Depay (Lyon), all contractually separated from their clubs.
Eric left Barça because after Cadet A, when it was his turn to renew, they did not propose anything appealing to him, beyond being one more in Youth B. “He considered that despite being a benchmark for La Masia, the technicians and teammates , the club did not give it that value at the time of renewal. He didn’t want to leave, he’s from Barça… ”, reveals Franc Artiga, his coach at that course and now the U21 coach of the United Arab Emirates. But that was the roadmap of Pep Segura and José María Bakero [entonces encargados de la cantera azulgrana], who were betting on muscle and making cash – by central charged 1.7 million euros in training rights – rather than maintaining the essence of the club. Thus, annoyed because he was one of the leaders of his generation along with Ansu Fati, Nico González and Arnau Tenas, in addition to Kubo (on loan from Madrid to Getafe in the last year), Eric accepted the offer of City, better economically and in sports.
It cost him at the beginning, exceeded by the amount of work he had in the games. “Until you get to the subsidiary, there are very few rivals who attack you and take the ball from you,” said Mingueza in an interview with this newspaper. But the same did not happen in the sub-18 of the City. Nothing, in any case, to prevent the progression of Eric, who already in the 2018 preseason, debuted with the first team against Dortmund and Liverpool. “He is an incredible boy, capable of leading the entire defense. He is very smart, plays with great concentration and very well. He’s going to have many minutes, ”Guardiola pointed out. And he kept his word because the next year he already made him debut in the Premier -before he had participated in the domestic cups-, an idyll that seemed perfect until Barcelona called him last summer.
“In the central position I am short,” said Koeman to request his incorporation, aware that Umtiti’s knee did not give for more and only had Lenglet and Piqué, perhaps with Araujo. And Barça tried to the horn, denied at 11 last night by City when they rejected an offer of about 15 million plus five in variables. And more of the same happened in the winter market – although Eric was willing to play for free until the end of the season and whose cost in the current financial year 2020-2021 could have been 230,000 euros, plus eight million in the next – because the Presidential candidates did not reach an agreement. Laporta even threatened by letter to the president of the manager, Carles Tusquets, with legal measures if he exceeded his functions with decisions that could compromise the viability of the club, such as signing a defender who would be released at the end of the season.
Eric’s hatching, however, has been choppy since he decided to return home. “I have not played much, but as the season is being spectacular at the collective level, I am very happy. But yes, there have been some hard moments, “admitted the center-back. “He is one of my favorite players. I hope I have 15 like him. But he has not been summoned to the final of the League Cup because I think he will sign for Barça ”, Guardiola justified himself after the final of the English League Cup. “Pep has given me everything and I have tried to measure up,” replied Eric García.
The Barça club, which in the last five years has signed as many centrals -Umtiti (25 million), Marlon (5), Yerry Mina (11.8), Lenglet (35.9) and Todibo (1) -, trusts to have Piqué’s successor, even if they share the line-up for a few years. “The good thing about Eric is that he already knows what Barça plays at, he’s made with our mold and has a very good ball output. He will not need too long to adapt to the demands ”, they point out from the club. “He was already much more mature than the boys his age and for that reason, having a very marked personality, he will not regret playing at the Camp Nou. But at the same time he is very humble and he will not have problems fitting into the dressing room either ”, reflects Artiga. Although it was always like that. “He wanted to improve and unlike most, he asked you. He was disciplined, but you had to convince him because he wanted to know the why of things; why filter a pass to the second row, when to shoot long… Above all, he was interested in getting the ball out, which is where it shines ”, argues Artiga. “I have a lot to learn, but what I have experienced in Manchester has made me grow a lot,” reflected Eric before leaving England.
Sad to lose the Champions League final – he returned with his family by car from Porto – Eric García now smiles at returning to the starting point, although already in the first team and with his suitcase packed to go with the national team to the European Championship.