Punctual, the first to appear in the interview area that the Federation had prepared on the Media Day before the Nations League games. Eric Garcia arrived with protection on his right hand that had him in cotton wool at the start of the call. A splint that protects him from a small finger injury that took him to the operating room. “Nothing, with this everything is fine”, he brushes her off as he takes a seat. With all the confidence of Luis Enrique, the center-back is now focused on the national team to recover sensations. Then he will have to disconnect and charge the batteries. He awaits a campaign that is expected to be exciting with La Roja and with Barça.
You have to change the chip after finishing the season with the club.
Yes, totally. To finish the course, these four games are good for the team to prepare for what is coming this year, the World Cup, which is undoubtedly the most important competition at the national team level. There are four very demanding games against very good opponents, and it will go very well for us.
How do they arrive after so many games?
It is a plus for everyone that the World Cup is getting closer. It is one more opportunity to show the coach in this call and in the next one that you want to be in the appointment of Qatar.
It is at stake to enter the World Cup squad list. What atmosphere is in the squad?
Most of us were at the European Championship together. And the four or five who have changed have also been called up several times in the national team. The truth is that the atmosphere is very good, and with the challenge of the World Cup so close, even more so.
A relatively young team, very hungry.
It’s a bit similar to the balance we already have at Barcelona. Young players with others with a lot of experience and a very high level, and I think that makes the team good.
And with a lot of competition, especially in your position.
The more competition there is, the better. All of us selected here are because the coach believes that we give a very high level. In all positions, there are players of a high level, and that makes each one of us better. We must be very attentive, taking care of all the details to try to play. And if not, try to help the team, knowing that the player on the field has a super high level.
How do you prepare for a World Cup in the middle of the season? Does the Nations League help keep the competitive tone?
Everything is an opportunity to show the coach to be together, to live together. And to play against teams of a level similar to the one we can find later in Qatar.
Luis Enrique always trusts you…
Every time I come here, it is a challenge to continue growing and continue demonstrating. To respond to the trust that Luis Enrique has given me from the first moment, I always try to make the most of it.
The first rival, Portugal, is a candidate for everything.
We know Portugal perfectly. We have played against them twice, and we have not managed to win either. It’s an important test, with players of a quality very similar to ours, so I’m sure it’ll be a good match.
Come on. It’s time to beat Portugal.
Yesterday we analyzed our rival, and the coach reminded us that we hadn’t managed to beat them, which is an extra incentive.
You will face a former teammate like Bernardo Silva, with whom you coincided at Manchester City and who is liked a lot at Barça.
He is a great player. He has incredible talent, and he is capable of playing in various positions. He is a footballer of these little ones, of which there are fewer and fewer. He is a player I have a lot of love for as a person and, above all, admiration for what he does on the pitch. He is brutal.
“Of those small players,” you said. Would he fit in at Barcelona?
At Barça, I have always said that the best players have to be there, and it is clear that Bernardo is one of them. But well, I don’t know how long he has had a contract with Manchester City, and they are things that I can no longer enter.
Two other players who are joining Barcelona are two teammates: Azpilicueta and Marcos Alonso.
They are two incredible professionals, very hardworking. They have a lot of experience and are of a very high level. They show it when they come to the national team and at Chelsea, where they are undisputed starters. Two top-level players.
Has any joke, any comment been thrown at them?
No… (Laughs) It was mentioned a long time ago, but we haven’t told them anything.
Is the national team a good ‘reset’ for the Barça players?
After not getting what we wanted as a team, now it’s time to finish here to be able to face next season with maximum skills and desire.
What happened to Barcelona? The team was going to win the trophy, but they fell in the tie against Eintracht.
I wish I could tell you, but I don’t know. We came from a fantastic streak, with 14 games without losing. But these are things that can happen in football. We didn’t want it to happen because we were in the most important stretch of the season, at the gates of the Europa League semi-finals, climbing positions, and fighting in the League. It has to serve us for the coming season to further reinforce the team’s mentality.
Do you think the team has lacked mentality?
It has been a campaign of many ups and downs. We found a bit of stability, and then we had two or three games that marked the season. It will go well for us, especially for the youngsters, who are starting in this, showing us the great competitive level.
With Xavi, are they laying the foundations?
Yes, it is clear. Since Xavi arrived, a huge difference was seen. We spent two or three months at a very high level. At the end of the season, we lost when we couldn’t lose, but we have to learn from this situation, knowing our mistakes.
On a personal level, first season at Barça. How have you experienced it?
It has been a season where I would have liked to win more titles. I really wanted to come back, and it has been an up and down campaign in general. Individually I know that there are things that I have to improve on, and I already know that it is not something that comes to me again from the beginning. I’m looking forward to next season because I think it will be very different.
You are always very self-critical and very self-demanding. What does Eric Garcia have to improve on?
In many things. I am very young, and it would be bad if I didn’t have to improve. For this, I have my trusted people who help me with it. I think I’m on the right track.
This summer, Barça wants to reinforce the line of defense. Does the competition scare you?
It is normal in all clubs, even more so in a year when things have not gone as expected. I believe that competition improves everyone. I’m ready for it, and it will be nice.
You have faced Lewandowski, the big target for the attack, and he has had to mark it. What kind of attacker is he?
He is a world reference striker. Both at Bayern and in his national team, he has been making a difference for a long time. I don’t know what will happen to his future, but it is clear that he is a great striker.
What do you think he could contribute?
All the qualities that everyone sees when he plays. Especially since he is a striker, his goal figures at Bayern are unbelievable. I don’t know what will happen to his future, and he will see.