UKRAINE CRI­SIS HELPS HOR­NETS

Span­ish star Riera heads for safety

The Football League Paper - - INSIDE - By Ed Lang­ford

FOOT­BALL and pol­i­tics are rarely apart these days and Wat­ford’s Al­bert Riera has re­vealed the on­go­ing cri­sis in Ukraine played a ma­jor role in his re­turn to English foot­ball.

The winger, on loan at Vicarage Road from Udi­nese, was all set to join Me­tal­ist Kharkiv in Fe­bru­ary be­fore the ten­sion be­tween Rus­sia and Ukraine height­ened to the point of af­fect­ing its do­mes­tic foot­ball.

Riera was out of con­tract af­ter see­ing his deal with Galatasary ter­mi­nated early and was train­ing with Span­ish gi­ants Va­len­cia be­fore plan­ning to join up with his new team­mates in Kharkiv.

Riera’s younger brother, Sito, was al­ready play­ing in Ukraine for Chornomorets Odesa be­fore Wat­ford’s lat­est loa­nee was of­fered a way out of his con­tract.

For­mer Liver­pool and Manch­ester City man Riera was look­ing for­ward to the new chal­lenge but quickly re­alised it wasn’t the place to be mak­ing his lat­est ca­reer move.

No­madic

“You can­not be just think­ing about foot­ball in a sit­u­a­tion like this,” said the 32-year-old.

“When I signed noth­ing in Ukraine was af­fect­ing the foot­ball there and my brother said they were play­ing as nor­mal.

“But then ev­ery­thing hap­pened so fast I had to made a quick de­ci­sion and I knew Udi­nese were in­ter­ested so I signed with them.

“A lot of the for­eign play­ers left the coun­try and fin­ished their con­tracts, in­clud­ing my brother, and Me­tal­ist of­fered me the chance to can­cel my deal with them.”

Ukraine would have been Riera’s sixth dif­fer­ent coun­try in a no­madic ca­reer dat­ing back to his days com­ing through the ranks at his home­town club Mal­lorca.

Af­ter spells with Bordeaux and Es­panyol, Riera en­joyed a suc­cess­ful loan spell with Manch­ester City be­fore sign­ing for Liver­pool in 2008 for £8mil­lion.

The winger, who has 16 in­ter­na­tional caps, spent two years on Mersey­side be­fore leav­ing shortly af­ter the end of com­pa­triot Rafa Ben­itez’s reign.

Riera ad­mits leav­ing An­field was the big­gest re­gret of his ca­reer but he soon went on to win ti­tles with Olympiakos and Galatasaray, some­thing the mid­fielder says was al­ways a huge mo­ti­va­tor.

“I al­ways pre­fer to play in a top team in a lower league. As play­ers we like to go out and play for the win, and that’s why you play.

“Maybe I could have gone and played in a bet­ter league like Ger­many or Italy but in a team that sits mid-ta­ble and has no clear ob­jec­tives. That’s not my men­tal­ity.

“I played for the best team in Greece, we won the cham­pi­onship and I played in the Cham­pi­ons League. It was the same in Turkey.

“I re­ally en­joyed my time in Greece and Turkey. I won tro­phies and win­ning is the most im­por­tant thing.”

De­spite agree­ing to join Udi­nese, Riera was too late to be added into the first-team squad so he was sent out on loan to Wat­ford at the end of March. It’s a step down from play­ing in the top tiers of do­mes­tic leagues but Riera ad­mits he’s been sur­prised by the talent on dis­play in the Cham­pi­onship.

Sur­prised

He adds: “When they told me I had the chance to come back to Eng­land, even if it’s not the Pre­mier League, I was happy. It was a good op­tion to come back.

“When I came here I was re­ally sur­prised but in a good way. The stan­dard is a good level and there are some good play­ers. The team has re­ally good qual­ity, par­tic­u­larly with the ball.”

The Spa­niard has been utilised as a left wing-back by Hor­nets boss Beppe San­nino due to the three-atthe-back sys­tem he adopts.

It’s a role Riera says he’s used to hav­ing played in a sim­i­lar sys­tem at Galatasary.

“I’m a winger and I like to at­tack and cre­ate as­sists but the wing­back role is one I like be­cause you can choose when to at­tack,” he says. I just want to give my all for the team.

“We’ve dropped points with late goals re­cently but that’s foot­ball. We’re go­ing to fight un­til the end of the sea­son.”

PIC­TURE: Ac­tion Im­ages

TALENT: Al­bert Riera win­ning one of his 16 Span­ish caps dur­ing the Con­fed­er­a­tions Cup

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.