José Mari García
|Full name||José María García Lafuente|
|Date of birth||10 February 1971|
|Place of birth||Logroño, Spain|
|Height||1.80 m (5 ft 11 in)|
|2011–2012||Betis B (assistant)|
|* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only|
José María García Lafuente (born 10 February 1971), commonly known as José Mari, is a retired Spanish professional footballer who played as a midfielder, and is the current assistant manager of Extremadura UD.
Born in Logroño, La Rioja, José Mari was trained in the youth system of CA Osasuna and began his senior career with the reserves in Segunda División B, his first match taking place towards the end of 1988–89. He spent another two seasons at that level, but also made his La Liga debut for the first team under manager Pedro María Zabalza, coming on as a late substitute in a 3–0 home win against Real Betis just prior to his 20th birthday.
José Mari began 1991–92 with the B-side, but by October he was part of the main squad. At the end of the campaign he had started four league games and appeared from the bench in another four, and also made his European bow on 22 October 1991 when he played the last eight minutes in place of Miguel Ángel Sola in a 0–0 home draw against VfB Stuttgart.
José Mari was confirmed as a first-team member for 1992–93, featuring in 20 matches (although he only played 90 minutes seven times) and scoring his first goal in a 1–3 home loss to RCD Español. He was even more prominent the next season, but broke his ankle in March 1994 and Osasuna were eventually relegated in last place.
Barcelona and Betis
José Mari initially remained in Pamplona and played in Segunda División until January 1995, when he was signed by FC Barcelona for 150 million pesetas (equivalent to around GB£720,000 at the time) and returned to the top level on a three-year contract. He later stated that the move had been close to completion the previous year, but his serious injury led to its delay.
Once at Camp Nou, José Mari was immediately involved in the matchday squads under Johan Cruijff, starting seven of the remaining league games. He also featured in both legs of a UEFA Champions League tie against Paris Saint-Germain F.C. which ended in elimination, where he missed a good chance to score a vital away goal in France, angering the Dutch coach; in the domestic league, the side could only rank fourth.
In the 1995 summer transfer window, José Mari joined Betis – who had just finished above Barça in the table – for barely a third of his purchase price, 60m ptas (£317,000), agreeing to a six-year deal. He was one of three Barcelona players transferred in discounted deals along with Óscar Arpón and former Osasuna teammate Francisco Sánchez Jara, in the wake of Ángel Cuéllar's move in the opposite direction via his buyout clause.
During his only year at the Estadio Benito Villamarín, José Mari appeared in 23 games overall as Lorenzo Serra Ferrer's side went on to finish eighth. Subsequently, he left Seville and moved to Athletic Bilbao for a transfer fee of around £1.2 million, arranged by controversial club president Manuel Ruiz de Lopera without the knowledge of the manager.
José Mari signed a four-year contract at Athletic, being eligible under their recruitment policy due to learning his skills at a club in the region. A teammate from his time with Osasuna youths, Iñigo Larrainzar, was already playing there.
In his first season – at the outset of the Luis Fernández managerial era – José Mari was a regular fixture (33 games, 28 starts), scoring the winning goal on his debut against Rayo Vallecano and netting the equaliser in an eventual 2-1 home win over his former side Barcelona on 23 November 1996. His status thereafter diminished to squad member, and he only appeared in 35 matches in the next three years combined.
José Mari did play the whole game in a crucial win over Zaragoza in May 1998 which ensured that Athletic finished runners-up, which he described as "the most intense game I played in". This success enabled him to appear once more in the Champions League, where he started a group phase clash against Rosenborg BK.
Afterwards, José Mari was a regular in the second tier with both CD Leganés and Burgos CF, being administratively relegated with the latter. He then dropped down one further level to play with CF Reus Deportiu, but a worsening back injury marred his short return to Catalonia, as his team was also relegated.
Post-retirement / Coaching
After retiring, José Mari returned to Seville. In 2006, he was one of a group of former Betis players including Rafael Gordillo and Roberto Ríos which took over lowly Écija Balompié in an ambitious project, being installed as sporting director– his time there coincided with the rise of future international Nolito; they also brought former Athletic player Igor Angulo to the Andalusian club, which won its third division section in 2007–08 but missed out in the play-offs, and in 2010 the ownership was acquired by an Écija supporters' group amid economic problems.
- "Osasuna, sin despeinarse" [Osasuna, not breaking a sweat]. Mundo Deportivo (in Spanish). 21 January 1991. Retrieved 12 April 2017.
- "Osasuna choca contra un muro" [Osasuna hit a wall]. Mundo Deportivo (in Spanish). 23 October 1991. Retrieved 12 April 2017.
- "El Español da la campanada" [Bells toll for Español]. Mundo Deportivo (in Spanish). 26 October 1992. Retrieved 12 April 2017.
- "Entrevista José Mari: "El partido ante el Zaragoza de 98 fue el mas intenso que he jugado" (II)" [José Mari interview: "The game against Zaragoza in 98 was the most intense I played in" (II)] (in Spanish). Sentimiento Athletic. 23 November 2013. Retrieved 17 March 2017.
- "José Mari, de Osasuna, primer refuerzo" [José Mari, from Osasuna, the first addition]. El País (in Spanish). 10 January 1995. Retrieved 17 March 2017.
- "André Gomes revive al José Mari de Cruyff" [André Gomes brings Cruijff's José Mari to mind]. Diario Sur (in Spanish). 15 February 2017. Retrieved 17 March 2017.
- "Yo jugué en el Real Betis: José Mari García" [I played for Real Betis: José Mari García] (in Spanish). Vavel. 22 February 2014. Retrieved 17 March 2017.
- "Tres puntos con diez jugadores" [Three points with ten players]. Mundo Deportivo (in Spanish). 9 September 1996. Retrieved 12 April 2017.
- "Atrapados en el barro" [Wallowing in the mire]. Mundo Deportivo (in Spanish). 24 November 1996. Retrieved 12 April 2017.
- "El Athletic deja volar la gran oportunidad" [Athletic let the big chance slip away]. Mundo Deportivo (in Spanish). 17 September 1998. Retrieved 12 April 2017.
- "Cuando el fútbol se alimenta a sí mismo de pasión e ilusión: el Écija" [When football feeds itself with passion and illusion: Écija]. ABC (in Spanish). 24 October 2006. Retrieved 17 March 2017.
- "Historia" [History] (in Spanish). Écija Balompié. Retrieved 17 March 2017.
- "José Mari negocia para ser el segundo de Vidakovic en el Betis B" [José Mari negotiates to be sidekick to Vidakovic at Betis B] (in Spanish). El Desmarque. 24 June 2011. Retrieved 17 March 2017.