UEFA Champions League winner Luis Garcia says the A-League needs a second division to help more Australian youngsters fulfil their potential.
The Liverpool great also said clubs should take a more hands-on approach in developing talented players from the age of seven.
Garcia’s comments came a week on from the inaugural board meeting of the Association of Australian Football Clubs, an independent body working on a model for a national second tier.
The Spaniard, who had a 10-game stint with Central Coast Mariners last year, urged Football Federation Australia to turn the vision into a reality.
“It’s the next step,” Garcia, 39, said.
“Now that the (A-League) competition is already set with the teams they’ve got, they need to improve on that.
“The players that are 18, 19 or 20 years old could develop in a second division and that will make them better players, not just playing a few friendly games.
“It will also make the teams in the first division improve and try to do better, because right now there is no relegation and no promotion, just a winner.”
Garcia was in town to play in tonight’s Battle of the Reds legends tournament at Adelaide Arena.
The winger has a love of Australia borne out of regular visits as a Liverpool ambassador and his four-month spell as a Mariners player during the 2015/16 campaign.
While impressed by the standard of the A-League, Garcia said clubs at all levels needed to devote more resources to children taking their first steps in the game.
“The most important thing is that the young kids start having the passion for football,” said Garcia, a graduate of Barcelona’s famed La Masia youth academy.
“A lot of young players start playing football at school, but they are not training three or four times a week.
“I’ve got kids back home (in Spain) where they train three times a week and they are only seven and eight years old.
“That’s what has to happen here in Australia.”
Garcia will line up in the indoor five-a-side event for a Liverpool legends side featuring former teammates Dietmar Hamann, John Arne Riise and Fabio Aurelio.
The 122-game Reds star was looking forward to rekindling an intense rivalry against a team of Manchester United greats, led by French striker Louis Saha.
“Barcelona against Real Madrid and Manchester United against Liverpool are probably the two biggest games in football.
“It’s quite something to bring these two teams to the other side of the world, because they (supporters) don’t have many chances to watch live games like this one.
“For us it’s also very important to give back a little bit of the love that we felt from the supporters when we were players.
“Once you retire, you start seeing that people are totally in love with Liverpool around the world and how many crazy things they have to do to even watch a game live on TV at 3am.”
The diminutive Garcia won four trophies in three seasons at Anfield, capped by the dramatic come-from-behind triumph over AC Milan in the 2005 Champions League decider in Istanbul.
He earned a reputation for scoring important goals in big matches, building a close bond with Liverpool supporters which lasts to this day.
“I arrived into a new culture and a new city with different players and a different language,” the 20-cap Spanish international said.
“But I felt at home because the club treated me so well and the supporters from the first game helped me so much to adapt.
“They (the fans) made a song about me and I think after that everything started looking so bright.
“To think that whole crowd has been thinking about some words just for you, you cannot express with words the feeling.
“It’s been 13 years since then and they still sing it some times.”