Aleix García’s Regista Renaissance at Girona

Aleix García’s story is truly one of persistence and transformation. He began his career in the Villarreal youth academy, working his way through the ranks up to the Villarreal B team. At just 18 years old, he made his first career move away from la Ciudad Deportiva Mini Estadi to the Manchester City U21 squad for €4.00m. 


Despite the promise shown in the Villarreal academy, García never fully acclimated to life in England. Fast forward six years later and Aleix García found himself back in Spain, this time in the Segunda División, playing for his fourth different club during that stretch. His nomadic approach to where he applied his football abilities was not due to an exceeding demand for his services. Quite the opposite, as his moves consisted of two loans and three free transfers. 


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Now, I should be clear: Aleix García was not a bad footballer at the time of his most recent transfer. He was coming off of a season for Eibar in La Liga where he played 437 minutes and registered an assist. And he was moving to a club he had previously been loaned out to while at Manchester City – Girona.


This is the place where he had seen the highest levels of his career to date (3 goals and an assist in 2,515 league minutes across the ‘17/18 and ‘18/19 campaigns). Despite being a free transfer, the move would be one of the best bits of business by the City Football Group-owned Catalan side in their club history, and the best possible outcome for Aleix García’s career.


Almost immediately, Aleix García hit the ground running back in familiar confines. He played 3,164 minutes for Girona in their 2021/22 Segunda División campaign, orchestrating play with his passing. While he only delivered 4 assists despite 7.5 xAG, he actually led the league in passes into the final third of the pitch with 249. García was the conductor behind Girona’s 6th place finish and leap back into La Liga through the promotion playoff.


Back in La Liga, Aleix García seized his second chance in Spain’s top flight and has become one of the best silent maestros in world football. You’ll notice I highlighted his passing stats during his time in the Segunda División – this is for good reason. He is not a high-profile goal scorer (only 4 goals in his 58 La Liga matches in the past two seasons).


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He is not a flashy carrier of the ball, even though his 55.0% take-on success rate ranks him in the 63rd percentile of all midfielders in Europe’s Top 5 leagues in the past 365 days. And he is not a defensive mauler; despite a high tackle success rate, his volume of defensive actions is on the lower side for his position. 


But the one thing he does extraordinarily well (for my money, second best in the world behind Toni Kroos) is consistently progress play from a deep-lying position with his precise long passing. This deep-lying play-making is something that has been in the works for the past couple of years. Observe the change in his positioning on the pitch while in possession over the past four seasons (one with Eibar, three with Girona):



Notice how this campaign, he has experienced a sharp drop in involvement in the final third of the pitch. In actuality, he is not seeing far less of the ball in the final third, he is just seeing far more of it in deeper zones during build-up. His ‘22/23 live ball touches in each of third of the pitch compared to ‘23/24:


  • Defensive Third: 14.8 -> 21.9 (48% increase)
  • Midfield Third: 38.6 -> 51.0 (32% increase)
  • Attacking Third: 18.8 -> 17.9 (5% decrease)


As I will hopefully be able to illustrate, his adoption of a deep-lying playmaker role has catapulted his career trajectory into another stratosphere. In other words, he’s evolving into one of the next great registas in world football. 


Let’s explore my claim by comparing Aleix García’s passing and positioning to all La Liga midfielders over the past two seasons who have registered at least 900 league minutes in the respective campaign. This provides us with a sample size of 296 players – more than sufficient to draw conclusions. To begin, we will start incredibly simple. I have plotted all 296 players by their pass attempts per 90 minutes and their pass accuracy.



Aleix García has improved on both fronts from ‘22/23 to ‘23/24, and his contributions this campaign rank as one of the very best within the sample group. I have included Toni Kroos’ indicators as a point of reference for each of the graphics. Spoiler alert: he’s consistently better than the rest of the pack. 


Total volume and pass accuracy are valuable measures, but hardly an indicator of my claim that Aleix García is becoming a world-class regista. A more apt illustration would be to plot long passes attempted per 90 and long pass accuracy, so that is exactly what I have done.



Again, García has made strides in both volume and accuracy, this time bested only by Toni Kroos in terms of his accuracy on a high volume of long passes. An impressive improvement for the Spaniard, allowing him to rank alongside (or ahead of) acclaimed La Liga midfielders in progressive passing statistics. He is currently third in the league in both passes into the final third and progressive passes, ranking only behind Kirian Rodríguez and, you guessed it, Toni Kroos.


One final way to comprehend the data: by plotting pass attempts/90 and pass distance covered (in yards) per pass attempt. This will allow us to see which midfielders actually pass a long distance at a high volume, regardless of their accuracy. Just a simple, “who is the most ambitious passer”.



I feel like I’m sounding like a broken record. Toni Kroos leads the sample group, but Aleix García has significantly improved upon last year and is hot on his tail.


One aspect of García’s game that affords him such a high level of long pass success is his ability to switch play. He currently has 70 completed switches of play (defined as a successful pass that travels 40 yards or more across the width of the pitch). The second highest in La Liga? Toni Kroos with 43. In fact, the difference between Kroos and Lucas Ocampos (the player who ranks 27th on this list with 16 switches) is equal to the gap between Kroos and García. 


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One more for good measure: the player with the third most switches of play in La Liga this season (Mario Hermoso with 35), has half as many as Aleix García. Last year, García was first among midfielders in La Liga, but third overall for this statistic with 43. This mind-numbing improvement has legitimately placed him in a world of his own in terms of ability to recycle the ball and keep an attack progressing by switching play.


Something I observed when researching for this article was how similar Aleix García’s play has become to Toni Kroos’. An observation I have hopefully been able to convey to this point. That said, when I took a closer look at the numbers, the similarities became almost alarming. Below is a comparison of a number of key “regista” statistics, and how the two players rank in percentile form compared to the 296 player sample:



The similarity of shape is striking. Both touch the ball more than nearly any other player in the population, and some of the most ball-dominant midfielders in the world like Frenkie de Jong and Ivan Rakitić reside in the sample group.


As well, both players operate almost exclusively in the defensive and midfield thirds, attempt and complete a high number of long and total passes, and generate a disproportionately large number of high-value chances from deep positions. Finally, both players win with their passing rather than their dribbling, although take-on success is the one area García rates substantially better than Kroos.


Although it is still fair to say Kroos orchestrates play in the regista mold better than García, the Spaniard is not too far behind, and is better than just about any other player in the world. To conclude this analysis, I’ve used the same statistics in the above radar chart but instead compared Aleix García from ‘22/23 to his current season’s contributions.



The main takeaways? He has:


  • Been asked to control the ball in possession more
  • Adopted a deeper position (see the decrease in attacking third touches/90)
  • Increased his volume of all pass attempts
  • Drastically improved his pass accuracy
  • Decreased the volume of chances created (in line with the deeper positioning)
  • Almost completely stopped taking players on off the dribble, but has still improved his success and ball retention when doing so


Bearing in mind Aleix García’s strides forward this season as an overall (and especially long) passer, positional slide into a deep-lying playmaker role, and alarming playstyle similarities to Toni Kroos, I feel extremely confident in saying:


Aleix García has completely revived his career as a regista, and is now simply one of the most unheralded deep-lying playmakers in world football. 


By: Spencer Mossman / @fc_mossman

Featured Image: @GabFoligno / Quality Sport Images / Getty Images