LEVI GARCIA had not before played as an outright striker for any club outside of Trinidad and Tobago or scored as many goals until this season.
The 2022-2023 Greek Super League 1 season has marked a breakthrough year for Garcia.
This season Garcia led the front line, as AEK Athens won its first Greek League 1 title in five years and also captured the Greek Cup.
The 25-year-old T&T international finished the recently-concluded season with a total 19 goals, including 14 in the league, and will likely be involved in qualifying for the 2023-2024 European Champions League.
“Best way to finish a great season,” Garcia announced via Instagram, after his club completed the double by landing the Greek Super Cup, “Proud to be part of this team.”
Garcia finished as Athens top-scorer in the league, his 14 goals only second to 32-year-old Democratic Republic of the Congo’s Cédric Bakambu of Olympiacos.
Garcia also doubled his seven league goals tally of 2021-2022. He scored in half of the 26 matches his team played this season and also got goals against all the other five teams comprising the top six in Greece; second-placed Panathinaikos, dethroned champions Olympiakos, PAOK, Aris and Volos.
Garcia’s exploits this season sparked speculation linking him with Scottish champions Celtic, Olympique Lyonaise of France, Spain’s Villarreal and a host of other European clubs, with £15 million listed as the selling price.
But with Athens involved in European football for the first time in half a decade, AEK Athens owner Dimitris Melissanidis has since issued a statement stating that Garcia is not for sale.
However, the right price seems to have a way of swaying even the most ardent football club owner and whether Garcia moves on or stays to complete the final two years of his contract will be decided over the next few months during the summer transfer window.
Garcia’s attraction is that he can score goals and also play right across the front line, as a left-winger where he started, to right-wing, and also at centre forward.
A natural left-footer, Garcia had played at left-midfield through his T&T youth team and Shiva Boys’ High School days, and also with AZ Alkmaar—the Dutch top flight club which he signed his first pro contract as an 18-year-old.
Garcia first had to grow into a role as a right-winger, at which he did not do too well, when former national coach Dennis Lawrence first tried him in that role at the 2019 CONCACAF Gold Cup.
Athens shifted him to right-wing with better success last season and for 2022-2023 the newly-installed head coach Matias Almeyda tried him as a central striker, with great success.
Garcia was only a 15-year-old when he began his professional football career in 2013, with T&TEC in the Trinidad and Tobago Pro League. He completed a free transfer to fellow T&T Pro League club Central FC. But before making his first-team debut for the Couva Sharks, Garcia signed with AZ Alkmaar in February 2015.
He was discovered by Dutch agent Humphry Nijman in September 2014, while playing for Trinidad and Tobago during qualification for the 2015 CONCACAF U-20 Championship. After an initial struggle between Central and Nijman, the two parties came to an agreement through mediation involving the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association to allow Garcia to participate for a trial in the Netherlands.
Garcia signed a pre-contract agreement for three years, with a club option for a two-year extension with AZ Alkmaar of the Eredivisie following a successful trial with the club. However, he was unable to begin his professional career until his 18th birthday due to existing European Union child protection labour laws.
He made 29 appearances in the top flight for AZ Alkmaar (2015-2018), between loan spells at Jong AZ (2016–2018) and another Dutch top flight club, Excelsior (2018).
With his Alkmaar contract due to expire at the end of the season, in May 2018, it was announced that Garcia would join Israeli Premier League side Ironi Kiryat Shmona for the 2018-19 season.
A year later, he moved to Beitar Jerusalem, before AEK Athens showed interest in 2020. AEK Athens signed the 22-year-old in September 14, 2020 by offering Beitar Jerusalem €2.6 million to acquire 60 per cent of Garcia’s rights, plus bonuses.
A decade on from running out in the T&T Pro League as a hopeful youngster for T&TEC, Garcia is at the top of his game and a superstar in the making.
SOURCE: T&T Express