Former Anfield star says he is still asked about the controversial Champions League goal he scored against Chelsea in 2005
Luis García is still asked about the "ghost goal" and José Mourinho is still moaning about it. The Spaniard's fourth-minute finish for Liverpool in the 2005 Champions League semi-final second leg against Chelsea was the strike that took Rafael Benítez's team to Istanbul, where they came back from a 3-0 half-time deficit against Milan to be crowned European champions.
From a few yards out García poked the ball towards the net and, despite Chelsea's William Gallas hooking it away, Lubos Michel, the referee, decided that a goal had been scored.
With Liverpool preparing to host Chelsea on Sunday – and if Mourinho's side are beaten that could all but crown the home side as champions for the first time since 1990 – García says he can go anywhere and the goal is mentioned.
"I was in Oman in March playing with the former players of Barcelona against Real Madrid. But people know me from Liverpool and always ask about the goal. Always around the world this happens. When we were in Muscat, the capital city, we went to a shopping complex and I saw a man with a red shirt on. He said: 'Can I have a photo?' I said: 'Sure'. Then he said: 'And was it a goal or not?'"
So, was it? "That's the question, isn't it? I should ask for a penny every time someone asks me that," laughs García, now 35 and who retired last year after a fine career that, as well as Liverpool, also included spells at Atlético Madrid (twice), Barcelona, Racing Santander, Panathinaikos and the Mexican teams Puebla and Pumas UNAM. "For me it was and the referee gave it so. If I am being honest, I remember the feeling of hitting the ball and when I saw the bounce going up I turned away and celebrated. I started doubting for a moment because for two seconds none of my team-mates were close and I started thinking: 'Oh my goodness, maybe it wasn't.' But I turned round and saw the referee and the linesman running back into position and just started screaming.
"We can say: 'If this', 'if that'. But the goal was given. If not it would have been a penalty and a red card, so we don't know if it was better what happened or not."
García cites how Petr Cech flattened Milan Baros before the goal. On Tuesday Mourinho, who was then in his first season of his first spell as Chelsea's manager, indicated that nine years of bitterness remains. "In the other semi-final we lost with a goal that was not a goal but that's part of football," he said to bewail the club's luck in the Champions League.
Yet García enjoys cordial relations with the tempestuous one. "Mourinho congratulated me at the end of the game, but I actually had a very good relationship with him," he says. "I met him [when both were] at Barcelona, and after I spoke a few times when he was a manager in Portugal, before he went to Porto, about signing for him."
As will be true on Sunday, the atmosphere on 3 May 2005 was particularly memorable. "It was incredible. They had a machine to measure how loud the Kop was that night and I think when the goal went in it was one of the highest decibel readings ever in sport," García says. "I played for 70 minutes and I remember feeling very nervous for the final 20. Apart from the goal and a couple of other moves, I don't remember much about the game. But those last 20 minutes I watched from the bench and was suffering."
García offers an insight into how Steven Gerrard and co may feel against Chelsea – who are five points behind Liverpool and need a win to keep their title hopes alive – at Anfield. "If I have to be honest, when you go into a game like that you are so concentrated, your mind is so focused that you block out a lot of things," García says. "You are concentrating on what you have to do, where you have to play. Sometimes it can feel like there is no one around you. When you stop, you can hear the atmosphere. You clap your hands and say: 'We are at home.' Then after it is like one click and you cannot hear anything."
Can Liverpool beat Chelsea? "They can do it. Right now is the time," he says. "All the players are focused and know what they have to do. Like Steve [after Liverpool beat Manchester City] said: 'Let's go again.' They did that against Norwich and it seems to be in their head now. When we won the Champions League it felt like there was something pushing us, I don't know what, because people say we shouldn't have won it.
"It is the same now. We don't know what is going to happen in the future. There are many good sides in the Premier League, many good players, so this is the right moment to put Liverpool back where it has to be. This is where we have to be around the world. To win a title the way they are playing would be perfect. Everyone is enjoying watching Liverpool play. The defenders are playing good, the midfielders are good, the strikers are on fire. If one guy goes out and another one comes in then they still do the job. It is very good."
Just as García was in his three years at the club.