John Arne Riise returns to Anfield on Sunday to take part in Steven Gerrard’s All Star charity match and the Norwegian has revealed how he regrets leaving Liverpool when he did in 2008.
Writing on his personal blog, Riise explains why he left Liverpool and says: “I must admit that I should have stayed. [..] because I know I would have taken the place from [Andrea] Dossena.”
Riise explains how Rafa Benitez had told him that the club were to sign a new left-back and that he would therefore no longer be first choice – a conversation that took place days after his infamous own goal against Chelsea in the Champions League semi-final.
“I honestly think that the own goal didn’t affect Rafa’s decision,” writes Riise. “Maybe I’m wrong, but I’m 100% sure that the own goal wasn’t the main reason. Yes, I was devastated about the own goal, I was crying at home and I didn’t talk to anyone for days. I knew I let all my teammates down and especially the fans.”
Riise, who currently plays for APOEL in Cyprus, explains how Benitez told him that he deserves to be first choice still for a club.
“I left the office with a lot of respect for Rafa. The only thing I wish he did earlier was telling me how I stood within the team, and what I needed to do to remain first choice.
“If he as my manager told me I needed to step it up, I would have done everything in my power to do so. I was blind and didn’t see it.
“But I love Rafa, he gave me the best night of my life in Istanbul, he showed me a lot of confidence in my time with him. I learned so much from him. He was a great manager for me and my career. For him to be so honest with me during that conversation is something I will never forget and always respect him for. I still keep in touch with him.”
Riise, who left to join AS Roma in 2008 before ending up back in England with Fulham in 2011, admits he let his standards drop in his final season on Merseyside.
“I can only blame myself. The last year at Liverpool I wasn’t as focused as previous years. I was too comfortable with my position in the team that I didn’t work as hard as I should have and had before. Absolutely annoys me!!!!”
Liverpool signed Italian Andrea Dossena that summer. Riise writes: “I knew Dossena would be first choice for the first 3-4 months, but I know I would have taken that place back.” Too true, John.