One of the bright sparks in Levante’s early season has been the form of Ruben Garcia, their 20 year old winger who attracted the interest of Arsenal in the summer before staying on with the Granotes. It was Garcia who scored Levante’s first goal of the season in their 1-2 win at Rayo Vallecano before being withdrawn through injury in the second half which forced him to miss the weekend’s 0-0 draw with Real Sociedad. That became Levante’s second goalless draw of the season and it is clear that Caparros will be relying on his youngster’s creative ability if his team, operating on one of the smallest budgets in the Primera division, are to achieve another respectable finish.
Born in Valencia, Garcia started his youth career with Los Che before moving across the region to Levante in 2010 after being ignored by Valencia’s cadet-level coach Mauricio Pellegrino. In Levante, he was given match experience with the B-team in the Spanish fourth division. Garcia hit 20 goals in his first year with the youth team and impressed in a friendly match against Levante B. This form caused Valencia to express their interest in taking the youngster back to the Mestalla before he committed himself to Levante by signing a new four year deal in January 2011.
While playing with Levante’s reserve and youth sides, Garcia was allowed to train with the senior team on a daily basis and he was also invited to train with the Spanish under-19s. Despite his excellent form for the development squads, the winger had to wait until the following September for his La Liga debut, coming on as a substitute in a 3-2 victory over RCD Espanyol. That became the first of 31 appearances as he established himself as a regular in coach Juan Ignacio Martinez’s first-team squad, being given squad number 11 in January as he became a regular senior player.
Over the course of the season, the then 19 year old hit four league goals, the first of which coming against Real Mallorca seeing him become Levante’s youngest ever top flight scorer. He registered five assists and impressed many onlookers with his confident, direct wing-play as Levante achieved a solid mid-table finish. His consistency earned Garcia a breakthrough with Spain’s under 20 side, for whom he now has 5 caps (at the time of writing), as well as sparking links with Arsenal in the summer’s transfer window.
However, despite Martinez’s departure to Real Valladolid in June, Garcia has continued to show glimpses of his talents in the new season. Levante, as a club, may struggle to compete this season, but Ruben Garcia will surely be taking all the chances he gets as a regular first-teamer.
A winger most at home on the left side of midfield, Garcia was initially used as an impact substitute by Ignacio Martinez, coming on late in the game to hurt wearing opposition teams with his explosive pace and direct running. That style saw him score his first in the game with Mallorca, charging down the left-side, exchanging passes with a team-mate before firing home an emphatic finish.
The 20 year old’s game is designed to cut inside from his left-sided berth rather than offering natural width and it is a trait that allowed Garcia to hit 36 shots on goal last term as he became a dangerous, direct threat on Levante’s usual game-plan of soaking up pressure and hitting teams on the counter-attack. The first three appearances in this season has seen him attempt four dribbles, trying to take on his man on ten occasions, showing how effective he is in Levante’s usual system of hitting teams on the break, dropping deep to pick up the ball before gliding past defenders with his excellent balance, nimble feet and explosive speed.
His ability and awareness on the ball in the final third is effective as he has created 5 chances so far this term as well as the goal against Vallecano, a product of neat footwork and incisive running seeing him beat a couple of defenders as he cut in from the right side to rifle an unstoppable shot down to the keeper’s left side. That he has attempted 53 passes so far this season with just 8 of them crosses (at the time of writing) suggests how Garcia’s game is based around creating in the inner channels rather than using his sheer speed to go outside of the full-back. It is a trait that has seen him being compared to Juan Mata.
His admirable quality in adapting to the orders of his coach and comfort on the ball was a feature behind Martinez’s decisions to field Garcia in a variety of positions, a right-winger, a play-maker or even as a striker as he did on a couple of occasions. However it is clear from this early season that Caparros sees him as a roaming left-winger. The confidence and the technical qualities which the 20 year old has in abundance is the main factor behind his versatility, though it is his remarkable discipline and defensive work that can see him play effectively as a central-midfielder.
Having already contributing 5 tackles and 8 interceptions this campaign as well as the 36 fouls he committed last term, 5 more than he suffered himself, it is a result of his willingness to get involved in the “uglier” side of the game and an over-enthusiastic immaturity that will be eventually eradicated with age. Though his ability to track back and protect his defence can not be argued with, a huge asset that sees him fit perfectly into Caparros’s rigid style that will aim to tighten things up in the wake of the opening day thrashing at the Nou Camp.
Standing at just 5 foot 7 inches, Garcia is often exposed in the air as he has lost 3 of his four aerial duels in this campaign, highlighting the importance in feeding the ball to his feet. Also, with a pass success rate of just 73.6%, his decision-making on the ball will also need improvement, but his 14 misplaced passes this term could be a result of the counter-attacking style used at Levante which relies on the support of team-mates to sprint forwards and join moves, often leading them short of numbers when in the opposition half.
Garcia is now contracted to Levante until 2016 and the interest from Arsenal in the summer revealed his release clause to be in the region of £8.5 million, which would not put off too many suitors should he continue his great form.
Athletico Madrid and Liverpool both previously looked at Garcia back when the winger was a youth player with Levante but it has been only Arsenal who have showed concrete interest in the 20 year old since he has emerged onto the La Liga scene. When asked about a potential move to the Emirates, Garcia said “Spain has very nice teams and is very historical, but I like to travel and go outside [the country]. Arsenal would be a very nice club and I think it would be great. Things are being worked on.” The player has been taking English lessons in recent years and is said to be a big fan of the Premier League.
Though a move away from Levante in the future seems near-inevitable, it appears likely that he will remain with the modest Valencia outfit to oversee the next part of his development. Based on his superb attitude, skill and awareness on the ball, plenty of clubs will be chasing the signature of Ruben Garcia over the next few years should he continue to impress in Spain.
What do you think of Ruben Garcia? Let us know by dropping a comment below. Make sure you follow us on Twitter @OOTB_football and like us on Facebook. We’re on Google+ and Tumblr as well for those interested.