Confirmation by Sergio Fernández of the extension of Manu García’s contract for one more campaign is good news for the albiazul fans. The gasteiztarra will fulfill his ninth season in Alavés next year and take over from Antonio Karmona as captain of a legendary team. Both are the only ones who have enjoyed the privilege of wearing the command bracelet in the two grand finals reached by El Glorioso..
The bermeotarra achieved his greatest sporting successes in the Gasteiz entity. He signed as blue-white in the summer of 1996 and remained until June 2003, seven seasons in which he enjoyed a promotion to the First Division, was twice a Cup semi-finalist and, as a most important milestone, wore the captain’s armband in the legendary final of the UEFA Cup in Dortmund, on May 16, 2001, in which Alavés was a worthy champion after losing with a golden goal in overtime to the almighty Liverpool (5-4 and 4-4 at the end of 90 minutes).
Gasteiztarra’s stage as babazorro is going to be longer. In this campaign he celebrates his eighth year at Mendizorrotza and, after extending his bond until the end of next, he will be at least nine seasons wearing the shirt of the team of his dreams. He also wore the alavesista bracelet in a final, in this case the Cup, played on May 27, 2017, in which his squad bowed to F.C. Barcelona (3-1) in the already closed Vicente Calderón.
From mud to elite
Manu García is right now the player of the current squad that has been standing on the Mendizorrotza lawn for the most years. He was recruited in the summer of 2012 by Javier Zubillaga, Sergio Fernández’s predecessor as sports director. The man from La Rioja knew him from his time in the lower ranks of the Royal Society.
Thus, he fulfilled his dream, going from watching the games from the ladder to wearing the elastic of the club of his loves. Season by season, it has been part of all the achievements obtained by the albiazul entity in the most recent stage; going from the Second B to the First Division. An escalation from the neighborhood to the elite in which it has lived through all the stages.
In season 12-13, he managed to ascend to Second A after a very close promotion tie against Real Jaén (1-1 in La Victoria and 1-0 in Mendizorrotza) and proclaim himself champion of the Bronze Division. In that campaign, he began as a band player until Natxo González, the Gasteiz coach of the promotion, already placed him in the center of the field.
In the following, the 13-14, he achieved salvation in the last breath of the final league day with a dramatic victory again against Real Jaén (2-3) thanks to Guzmán’s historic goal in a heart attack finale. Thanks to that great pinch of luck, the Bravo albiazul¸ team, as its anthem defines it, can today boast of rubbing shoulders with the greats of Spanish football.
The growth of Alavés experienced its last push two years later, in the 15-16 campaign. Directed by José Bordalás, he broke all the forecasts and rose brilliantly to the First Division. In all these exercises, as until today, Manu has always been among the team’s starters.
In the summer of 2016, Josean Querejeta joined a key player in the team’s sporting takeoff. Sergio Fernández relieved Javier Zubillaga as sports director, which in a brilliant stage led the club to the First Division starting from Second B.
Many thought then that it was the beginning of the end for the already captain Babazorro, who after reaching the highest category became the footballer who had been on the team the longest after a summer in which the club undertook a profound revolution.
It was the start of the 16-17 season, the second most glorious in the club’s history. With the signings of Dani Torres and Marcos Llorente, the ownership seemed banned for the gasteiztarra. But once again, Manu did not give up. Based on tenacity and work, he soon displaced the Colombian and became the main squire of the young man from Madrid, who exploited as a footballer in Vitoria-Gasteiz and now wears the Atlético de Madrid shirt.
From there, all have been successes. At the Cup final in May 2017, Manu García and his Alavés have managed to stay in First for four consecutive courses, an achievement for a modest entity. And every year, the fireproof Manu has continued to progress unstoppably, overcoming challenges to continue as captain in this Deportivo Alavés.