News Live Scores
Manchester City

Intelligent, curious and stable - why Man City want to give Eric Garcia a long-term deal

01:30 GMT+3 04/01/2020
Eric Garcia Manchester City
Pep Guardiola hailed the Spanish under-21 defender after starting him in consecutive Premier League matches

Pep Guardiola has rarely seen a teenager with such tactical intelligence as Eric Garcia, which is why Manchester City are hoping to tie him down to a new contract in the coming weeks.

The 18-year-old is slightly built, at six feet tall relatively small for centre-back and lacking in experience. But his footballing awareness is remarkable.

Even at such a young age, Garcia is already taking his football coaching badges to better understand the game. Before the game against Watford in September, Garcia pointed out to Guardiola something he noticed in the Hornets’ warm-up that suggested they would be playing with five at the back. He was right and City won the match 8-0.

The dependable Sergio Busquets in the heart of Barcelona’s midfield is the only player that the City boss can recall having a similar footballing nous so young.

“Busquets was so curious to know that in that age, 17 or 18 - there are not many,” Guardiola said ahead of City’s FA Cup clash with League Two Port Vale.

“In the squad there are people who love to understand the game and talk tactics and others who don’t. That doesn’t mean it’s good or bad.

“But Eric is a guy who likes to know why. Why? Why the reason why? When he makes a mistake he understands quickly.

“He will continue to make mistakes, of course. But when you have a guy who knows how to be stable - it’s important to be stable if you are a central defender, he’s always a seven or eight, not make an incredible performance but not make a lot of mistakes, and Eric in this situation as a young player that is always stable.”

In the next few weeks, City’s director of football Txiki Begiristain is set to sit down with Garcia’s representatives, which include former Barca players Carles Puyol and Ivan de la Pena.

The teenager still has two-and-a-half years remaining on the five-year contract he signed when City plucked him from Barcelona's La Masia’s in 2017 for  a fee of £1.5million.

Barca’s academy director Patrick Kluivert has suggested that the door is open for a potential return for a player who has been likened to Gerard Pique - a club legend that spent time in Manchester with City's rivals United before a triumphant return home.

City will be keen to tie Garcia down to a new long-term deal and Guardiola added that it’s only natural to want to talk to a defender who could make his third consecutive start on Saturday against Port Vale.

“I didn’t speak with Txiki, honestly, but when a player is 18, the club will want to extend the contract but the situation, I don’t know,” he said.

Garcia made a big impression when he joined the preseason tour to the United States in the summer of 2018 when much of the first-team squad was away recovering from the World Cup.

His composed performances against Liverpool and Bayern Munich stood him out but there was already a buzz about his performances in the academy and scouting staff knew his qualities when he was at La Masia.

“I heard something about him he was in the Barcelona academy, he was the captain in all the youth teams, he arrived here and he was immediately a captain,” Guardiola said.

“That is how well he has settled in the team because he’s a lovely guy, well-educated, knows exactly what he has to.

“He’s not every over-exaggerated in his acts, and not shy in the other ones and he’s always calm and incredibly focused.

“I heard that when he was in Barca, and when I came here, City decided to pick him up and his progress is thanks to the academy coaches.”

Guardiola admits he has not gone easy on the teenager since moving him into the first team. He has played on the left-hand side of a defensive back-three in City’s last two Premier League matches with the more senior Fernandinho and Rodri in a more comfortable central and right hand position.

He has also played on the left as part of a pairing - a position senior team-mate Nicolas Otamendi struggled with earlier in the season, getting caught out badly in the 3-2 defeat at Norwich City.

“I’m not a nice guy,” Guardiola joked. “He’s comfortable playing on the right foot, not the left. It is not easy but he’s slotted in so well. He’s helped us in this period with a lot of problems.”

City are starting to have more defensive options returning with John Stones available for the Port Vale clash and Aymeric Laporte nearing a full recovery from his long-term knee injury.

Spain under-21 regular Garcia could well find his first-team opportunities slowing up in the upcoming months. But it’s just the beginning of a new decade - one in which Garcia is set to play a huge part.