Albert Riera: A Disappointing End To His Liverpool Career
By Andy Hayes.
Transfers in Spring were thought to be things of the past, but if rumours are to be believed, then Liverpool will be saying goodbye to Albert Riera in the next fortnight. After his highly publicised Rafa rant, where Riera criticised Benitez’s man management skills, describing his dialogue with his players as ‘practically nil’; it seems as though Benitez has deemed the winger surplus to requirements and will allow him to move on.
Signed from Espanyol at the end August 2008, many fans were sceptical of a man they had only seen flop in a loan spell at Manchester City in 2006. I remember La Liga know all Guillem Balague saying that he is either excellent or the worst player on the pitch, not a totally glowing reference, but one that was certainly accurate,unlike when the same expert said Josemi will ‘definitely be the next right back of Spain.’
Thrown straight in at the deep end against Man United at home, the excellent Riera turned up as Liverpool secured a long awaited victory over their rivals. His strong running and good link up with Fabio Aurelio were promising signs, and every flick he tried came off in an altogether fantastic debut – good start.
He became a fixture in the starting line up, scoring his first goal, a low, right foot drive at the Kop End, in the thrilling victory over Wigan and played in the record ending win at Stamford Bridge.
As the season went on, it was clear that Riera could be frustratingly inconsistent. Moments of brilliance like his goals in Eindhoven, at Deepdale and that strike at home to Villa were always possible just as an awful performance was. Although any players contribution shouldn’t be overlooked in victories at The Bernabeu and Old Trafford, if you remember Albert’s performance with the ball in both, he was dreadful – silly flicks never coming off in games where possession is key. He couldn’t be relied on.
2009/2010 never really started for the number 11 after a long summer with Spain in the Confederations Cup. In and out of the starting line up before the niggling injuries started and his (and Liverpool’s) season plunged. Those who went to Ewood Park will remember, on second thoughts, might not – how bad he could be. It might sound exaggerated but the first half passed without any sort of contribution – he literally did nothing. Injury forced him off and despite a brief resurgence in the crucial victory over Spurs in January, that was basically it.
There is no secret that Rafael Benitez isn’t the most hands on manager and outbursts as recent as Ryan Babel’s tweet prove that players can get disillusioned and frustrated by it. Whereas Babel was fined then forgiven, Riera’s description of the club as a ‘sinking ship’ might have been just too much. It was more than just an attack on the manager, it was an attack on his club and his teammates, and i’m not talking about the alleged lashing out at Daniel Pacheco that, if true, probably got him dropped from the side.
A move to Russia looks likely with Spartak Moscow looking to snap him up on loan. The Russian transfer widow is open until April 8th and with Riera looking to secure a place in Spain’s World Cup squad, it would be ideal for him and his Siberian born wife.
Should Liverpool let him go? Probably, as Maxi, Babel, Yossi Benayoun and Dirk Kuyt are currently ahead of him in the pecking order, and he is a player that has a decent value on the market. Will Liverpool miss him? Unlikely, as they have enough options for now and it must be an area where Benitez will be focusing on improving in the summer if he is given another season.
If he goes, and it’s looking more likely by the day, Albert Riera will be remembered more miss than hit but it should never be forgotten that he was a key player in Liverpool’s only real Premier League title charge.
Should Riera be allowed to leave? Or should Rafa give him another chance to prove himself? Please leave your comments below…..