Luis García is preparing to meet up with his former Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard at Star Sixes, but this time they’ll be on opposite sides.
García’s Spain meet Gerrard’s England on the opening night at The O2 on 13 July, and after the pair won the Champions League together with the Reds, the Spaniard knows more than most about his international rival’s qualities.
Gerrard’s inspirational leadership helped Liverpool come from 3-0 down to beat AC Milan in the 2005 Champions League final in Istanbul, a night that Garcia says was his best in football.
But now he hopes his team, featuring another ex-Red Fernando Morientes, as well as other Champions League legends Carles Puyol and Míchel Salgado, can get their hands on yet more silverware.
“Stevie was one of the greats, a real leader on and off the pitch and a great teammate,” says García, who spent three seasons at Anfield. “It wasn’t only in Istanbul that he drove us on, if you remember.
“But in the final, his goal gave us the belief that we could go on and win it, and he was the real inspiration for us. He made us believe, and winning one of the greatest finals of all-time was the highlight of my career.”
The former Barcelona and Atletico Madrid forward, who also won The FA Cup during his time at Liverpool, says he’s looking forward to a return to England.
As well as the match-up against the hosts, who will also have Rio Ferdinand, Michael Owen, Emile Heskey and Phil Neville in their ranks, Spain will face Group A fixtures against Scotland and Mexico, where he played for two seasons with Puebla and UNAM.
“I am really excited about Star Sixes,” he adds.
“It’s not often you get the chance to play against such great players in a tournament like this, which is similar in format to the World Cup, so it’s unique.
“It will be a fantastic chance for supporters to see world-class players competing again.”