By James Crump – @TheJamesCrump
Today we jump back 18 years, to when Liverpool fan favourite John Arne Riise first signed for the Reds.
Born in Molde, Norway, John Arne Semundseth Riise started his career with local club Aalesund.
He impressed, and within a year of signing his first professional contract he moved to a slightly warmer climate, signing with Monaco.
Despite a slow start to life in the south of France, Riise became an integral part of the team in his second season. The Monegasques became Ligue 1 champions that year under the management of future Southampton and Leicester City manager Claude Puel. However, Riise’s time at Monaco turned sour when he declared his intention to leave, fracturing his relationship with the boss.
Although Leeds and future club Fulham attempted to sign him, Liverpool were the first to offer the right fee. Riise joined Liverpool in 2001, and went on to make 234 appearances before departing for Roma in 2008.
His start at Liverpool couldn’t have gone any better, scoring to help Liverpool to a 3-2 win against Bayern Munich in the 2001 Super Cup final. Important and often spectacular goals would become trademarks of the Norwegian, even if his shooting often veered towards the erratic.
There would be more European glory to come for the left back – Riise got the first assist in the 2005 Champions League final comeback, crossing for Gerrard to head into the bottom corner.
As the game went to penalties you would have banked on Riise thrashing his spot kick into the top corner, but his effort was uncharacteristically tame and was easily saved by Milan’s Dida. It didn’t matter in the end as Liverpool still came out the victors.
Two years later, in 2007, Riise played in a third European final for Liverpool. This time Benitez’s Liverpool lost in a rematch with Milan. The campaign featured some memorable performances, with the Barcelona tie standing out.
It was famous for matters on and off the pitch. Off the pitch, the team were preparing for their Champions League tie by staying at a resort in Algarve, Portugal.
The players were given a night off to relax and allowed a couple of beers if they so wished. Riise didn’t drink alcohol and went to bed early, but a few players had more drinks then allowed. The night got out of control and Jerzy Dudek ended the night under arrest. Normally that would be the biggest scandal of the night, but Craig Bellamy had other ideas.
The Welshma downed the beers early and decided to pick on Riise by egging him on to sing karaoke at the bar they were drinking in. The defender became irate and told Bellamy to shut up. Never the calmest, Bellamy told Riise he would kill him.
Later on when Riise was asleep, Bellamy broke into his room and attacked him with a golf club hitting him in his thigh and hip. Never the most potent in attack, Steve Finnan loitered by the door watching it all unfold.
Bellamy scored against Barcelona a few days later and celebrated with a golf swing. Riise scored the winner that day… assisted by Bellamy. The players celebrated as a team, highlighting Riise’s prioritisation of the team over his personal feelings.
Known for his thunderous shot, the Scandanavian netted some important – and spectacular – goals for the Reds. He scored a sensational goal against Everton in his first season, slaloming down the left before slotting it into the bottom corner.
This was a classic John Arne Riise goal, and watching the Norwegian sprinting down the wing before letting fly became a common sight. He wasn’t just an attacking threat however, but also a diligent, powerful defender.
Despite his seniority in the team, he eventually lost his place in the side in 2008 to Fábio Aurélio. Riise declared his love of Liverpool, but the lure of first team football proved too good for him to turn down. He left for Roma on June 18th, 2008 and became a hard-working and important member of the team in the Italian capital.
Towards the end of his Liverpool career his performances had lost their past potency, Until Andy Robertson arrived from Hull, the Reds had struggled to find a replacement of Riise’s ability and stature within the team.
His hard work,passion and relentless attacking capabilities are remembered fondly by Reds fans, and the length of time it took to adequately replace him is testament to his quality.
In recent times, Riise has continued to show his undying love for the red half of Merseyside, regularly tweeting support for the team and by playing in the odd legends game.
His long-range strikes are still erratic but, when he catches it right, no one’s gonna stop it.