On September 1st 2008, Albert Riera joined Liverpool on transfer deadline day. Wearing his “lucky” number 11, Riera went on to make 40 appearances and score 3 goals while playing at the club. The Spanish international has had quite the career with spells at Mallorca, Bordeaux, Espanyol, Manchester City, Olympiacos, Galatasaray, and of course Liverpool. LFC Transfer Room’s Matt Thielen (@MelwoodDaily) talked to the former Liverpool player and discussed the high and lows that he experienced in his beloved club.
Do you think that there is a difference between the Premier League when you were playing and it now?
“Not a big difference, as we are not talking about 25 years ago, so I think that both the Premier League at that time and now still have the most beautiful thing in football that is the rhythm of the game.”
How were the owners when you were at the club? Do you have an opinion on them?
“Well, us players do not have too much to say about the owners, as everyone works on our role in the club, so the player’s role is to play football and respect the rest. During my time owners were never in the middle of our job, on any meeting when we had matches, nor disturbed in anything that was exclusively about tactic, line-ups. So no player said anything to them on how to manage the club, as it was their job. Look, sometimes it looks easy and we can have our opinion but at the end the most important thing is the group results, and we got them in 2008 by being very close to the tittle. Now the same situation, players just have to be focus on football and what is happening on the pitch.”
What was your favourite memory during your time at Liverpool and do you have a favourite goal?
“Many many, I can’t say just one. Signing for Liverpool my first day was amazing! 3 days later we win the derby against United at Anfield 3-1, and I made my debut. Playing Champions League, my goal against PSV from far away. My first goal at Anfield against Wigan, but not only about that goal, because I remember well that game that we were losing 0-2 at half-time and Anfield were amazing the 2nd half and we won 3-2. Listening YNWA every match, winning against Real Madrid in champions league 0-1 in Bernabeu, and then 4-0 at Anfield, what a game! 1-4 in Old Trafford, volley goal against Aston Villa from Reina assist. So you can see there is many. And lastly one more: Being able to train every day at that amazing club was a dream for me, a dream that now I still can’t realize.”
Who did you spend the most time with while at the club? Who was your closest teammate while there?
“Well our value was the group, the athmosphere in the dressing room was the key of our success clearly! Rafa made a lot of effort to be like this. When he signed a player he has to know not only how he is as a player, but also the character and how he is outside of the pitch. This is fantastic as it helps a lot to the other players, because the human side is also very important. And of course we were many Spanish players and also living very close. The closest one was and still is Pepe Reina, we are also fathers in law of our respective daughters.”
What went through your mind during the 2008-2009 season after Liverpool was so close to winning the title but ended up losing out to United by 4 points?
“Bufff! last matches of United were absolutely lucky! I don’t like to use this word in football, because to have luck you must try and work, but scoring in almost all 4 matches at extra time…we had the feeling that we did our best.”
Having played with the likes of Alonso, Gerrard, and Carragher; how do you think that squad compares to the current one under Klopp?
“I don’t like to compare teams, every generation is different. We had a perfect combination of young and experience players, and everyone knew his role and what to do. With Rafa we were almost a perfect team tactically, he prepared us for this, and after that the quality of the players made the rest. Now with Klopp is a team that also has good quality and shows his character, they try to play very fast. They are on the good way, hopefully we can soon have a good surprise!”
You were suspended after some comments about Rafa and your playing time. Do you believe you should have been suspended?
“Well I have to say that my relationship with Rafa was always good, just that at that moment I made an interview with the Spanish media, that some words were not what I said, and even if they were true or not Rafa reacted as any Boss in this world should have reacted, because he must be the same with all the players in order for them to have the respect from each other, and is the best for the team. In that interview, it was true that I was frustrated because I was not playing as much as I wanted in that time, and I was thinking only in me because 3 months later I had the WorldCup and I needed to play. From one side is normal because all players want to play, but I never attacked Rafa directly saying it was his fault, and they wrote that. Rafa wanted the best for the team, so if I was at my best for sure I was playing more, so thats it. A recommendation for any player, first look at yourself, then after that see where is the problem. I learned that from that situation.”
How did you react to this?
“I didn’t react at all. I was just apart of the team suspended 2 weeks, and training with the academy. I accepted and worked harder to come back better.”
Have you spoken to Rafa Benitez about what happened since your transfer?
“Just accepted and pay for my words even if many of them were not from me or they made bigger. But what I can say honestly, do you think I can talk bad about the person who bring me at the biggest club in my career and made my dream true, or talk bad about this amazing club that is Liverpool and being an honour to have play for them? Always good words and just appreciate them still now that where I go people remember me as player that played for their loved club.”
Do you regret saying those things?
“Regret or not, right or wrong, the most important thing is that you learn from every situation, and I did it. But I bet with anyone right now that no journalist can prove that I said any bad word when talking about my former club. You never hear anything coming from my mouth, so why to put some words from me that I never said In big! Thanks Liverpool, I will never give you back what you did for me. Thanks again and I will always support you, and if one day I can help the club from any post, It will be with pleasure.”
Having played in both La Liga and the Premier League, what is the biggest difference between the two leagues? Which league would you say is more difficult?
“The difference is the rhythm clearly, and the atmosphere that fans create around with their respect to the players and to the game. In the Premier league, you must be fast with ball and also without ball. In Spain, we always said that the quality with ball was higher, but at this moment they are same or even better in the Premier league, as many talented players came to play in it.
During your time as a player you played alongside a lot of very talented players. Who would you say is the best player that you’ve played with? And if you could, who is one player that you would like to play alongside once again?
“Difficult question because there are many. I played in Mallorca with Eto’o, in Bordeaux with Pochettino, in Espanyol with Tamudo, in Man City with Fowler, in Liverpool with Gerrard, in Olympiacos with Kevin Mirallas, in Galatasaray with Drogba. I could name one from every team. But if I have to choose one for my team, problably I will choose Steven Gerrard, not only for what he was on the pitch. and all of us know that, but because of what his presence meant in the team, he made the difference and all that represents for the rest. Respect for others, example as a captain, talk just when needed, and more important in life, a human.As a person, an 11!”
Albert Riera: “I finish my interview with my number! Number 11, that i had the luck to wear during my time at the club. Thanks to Matt for giving me the opportunity to say again thanks to the club, to all the workers there, specially Jane, to Rafa Benitez and all his staff that made me better person, and player. And of course to the fantastic fans of Liverpool. Always, You will never walk alone!!!”
Interviewer: Matt Thielen (@MelwoodDaily)
Albert Riera: (@11Riera11)