Former Liverpool left-back John Arne Riise spoke to This Is Anfield about his time at the club, his personal aspirations and hopes for the 2018/19 season.
EXCLUSIVE BY JOEL RABINOWITZ
Throughout a seven-year spell on Merseyside, joining the Reds in a £4 million deal from AS Monaco in the summer of 2001, Riise went on to score 31 goals in 348 games.
The Norwegian earned a reputation for his fearsome left-footed thunderbolts and superb crossing ability, most notably playing his part in the 2005 Champions League triumph over AC Milan with his assist for Steven Gerrard’s headed goal.
Following spells at Fulham, Roma and APOEL, Riise made a brief venture into the Indian Super League with Delhi Dynamos, before returning to Aalesunds FK—the club where he began his career in Norway back in 1996—eventually hanging up his boots after one last stint in India with Chennaiyin FC in 2016.
This summer marks the 17-year anniversary of his move to Liverpool, and in an exclusive interview with This Is Anfield he reflected on his time with the club.
“It makes me feel old, as I remember it like it was yesterday. By reminding me, many of my Twitter followers also made me feel old the other day!” he joked.
“Istanbul is the obvious highlight, of course—but to be honest, I enjoyed all seven years of it.
“It was a great honour for me to have the chance to prove myself as a footballer at the best club in the world, to be able to go there at a young age and try to make a name for myself.
“I tried to give the fans something to remember me for. Liverpool made me both as a player and as a person. The fans made my life so much easier.”
Having played predominantly as a left-back throughout his career, Riise also showed his versatility in playing a more advanced left-midfield role at times under Rafa Benitez.
He feels his naturally attacking style of play would have well suited to the kind of high-intensity, front-footed football Jurgen Klopp‘s Liverpool play today.
“For sure, I would have loved to play as a full-back under Mr. Klopp,” the 37-year-old continued.
“It’s no secret that I was more offensive and enjoyed getting up and down the wing and making forward runs into the box.
“Full-backs in modern football have to be really fit and strong.
“They’ve got to be able to get forward, create chances, and score and assist goals—which was what my game was all about, really.”
Since retiring from professional football, Riise has continued to work within the sport as an agent for Europe Global Finest Athletes.
Speaking of this latest step in his post-playing career, he explained: “Yes, I am trying to help especially younger players, to take the right steps in their career.
“I want to help them to focus, and to use my own personal experience on what it takes to reach the top level in the sport.”
While his former team-mate Steven Gerrard has recently moved into a full-time management position at Rangers, Riise reveals he too has long-term aspirations to follow a similar path.
“My goal, ultimately, is to become a manager. I’m doing my coaching badges now and my big goal is to manage in the Premier League,” he explained.
“I have already spoken to the Liverpool academy to ask if I can come there to observe and learn from them. I feel I have a lot to give when it comes to managing.”
Liverpool, of course, made four high-profile on-field acquisitions over the summer, including Brazilian defensive midfielder Fabinho, from Riise’s former club Monaco.
Naby Keita arrived in a £52.75 million deal with RB Leipzig, Alisson joined for a world-record fee for a goalkeeper—later broken by Chelsea in signing Kepa—and Xherdan Shaqiri arrived from Stoke City.
Speaking of which players he is most looking forward to watching for Liverpool next season, Riise cast a wide-ranging look over the whole squad.
“Obviously, our new signings. [Fabinho and Keita] are both really exciting and I can’t wait to see them performing in Klopp’s system and style of play,” he said.
“I’m also really excited to see if we can continue to play like we did last season, and if Mo Salah can continue his great form.
“And all the other players too, to be honest. We’ll need everybody to be able to keep it going if we want to challenge properly for the title.”
After a second successive top-four finish under Klopp, Riise believes Liverpool are now in a real position to build from here and mount a sustained challenge at the top next season.
“The obvious next step for the club is to get closer to Man City—closer to the title. We really should be up there fighting for the league title this season,” he outlined.
“I also want us to win another trophy. Playing amazing football is great, but it’s not always enough. Titles are important.”
* Riise has recently released an autobiography, charting the highs and lows he experienced throughout his two-decade long professional career in the game.
The English version will be published in September, and is available to pre-order here.