David Garcia says he had a comfortable evening against the five-time Ballon d’Or winner and that it was like defending against “any other soccer professional”
Former Espanyol left-back David Garcia had the honour of being the first man to mark Lionel Messi and has declared that the Argentine wasn’t anything special on that day back in 2004.
Just a teenager at the time, Messi made his professional debut against Espanyol as he came on for the final seven minutes in a 1-0 win.
Given he had just a few moments to impress in the game, the Argentine had little impact, with Garcia comfortably dealing with a soccer professional that would go on to become one of the best ever.
“We knew who he was, both me and the Espanyol youth players. We knew what Barcelona had in their squad and that he was one to watch,” Garcia told Goal.
“We had seen him in some matches with the B squad and we knew, in part, what he was capable of.
“It was normal [marking Messi that day], he was not what he has been now, despite his innate talent. Today he has been confident and has grown a lot – nothing like what he was in that game.
“I don’t remember anything special about marking him, it was like defending against any other soccer professional.”
Garcia, who himself made his Liga debut with Espanyol as a teenager, would go on to play over 200 games for the club before retiring while at Girona in 2015.
Looking back at his early duel with Messi, Garcia concedes he never thought the attacker would go on to become the superstar he has been today.
“I sensed that he would be a very good soccer professional but not what he has become,” he said.
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“The truth has been that at that time I did not think about what he was going to be. I thought that, like many boys from Espanyol or Barcelona, he was fulfilling the dream of debuting with his team being so young but on the pitch you don’t think about that.”
Messi would go on to feature in nine more matches for the first-team that season, including a Champions League appearance, and would score his first goal for the club in May 2005 against Albacete.
The 32-year-old received his sixth European Golden Shoe on Wednesday and, after starting the 2019-20 season sidelined, will be determined to make up for lost time when the Catalans face Eibar on Saturday.