Euro 2008 and “Ohhhhhhhhh Johnny Riise…..”

I was sad to learn that John Arne Riise is no longer a Liverpool player. A move was expected so it should come as no surprise that Roma eventually ended up paying and rather paltry £4m for him. However, to my mind he should remain a red.

Admittedly Riise’s form last season wasn’t what we’ve come to expect from him and course everyone will hone in on that diving header into his own net against Chelsea as evidence of this. However, this is shortsighted, ignoring the years of solid service he has given the club since he was signed from Monaco in 2001.

I guess the writing was on the wall regarding Riise’s future in 2006-07. His appearances seemed diminished and, as more and more defenders and midfielders were signed, became less and less in 2007-08. The BBC website suggested that Riise played “second fiddle” to Aurelio for much of last season but, to my mind, out of the two, the Norwegian was always the more reliable virtuoso.

However with hindsight, given the evidence perhaps, on balance, after seven years with us, the “itch” had arrived and it was time for a move? I don’t know what Riise had to do to convince Rafa that he still had a future with us. His bad form last season didn’t help but may be, after all he has done, he was owed a degree of patience? Would he have turned it around? Who knows? Perhaps he is the sort of player who needs a run in the side to shine? He was never going to get that particularly at the start of the season, Rafa’s rotation policy saw to that. Was he distracted by the off the field stuff, money problems, the wage slip incident and of course Bellamy? May be Rafa was ill at ease with Riise’s “versatility”, he played midfield and defence, and wanted specialist positional players or, if he wasn’t, does he just think that Gareth Barry, who can also play in Risse’s positions, is a better replacement?

Whatever it was last season Riise looked a shadow of the powerful, pacy, swashbuckling, hammershot we were all used to. He looked short on confidence and as a result inspiration. However, I would prefer to remember the Riise of old. How many defenders shouted “don’t let him shoot “ as he got the ball on the edge of the area. Surely the “pick of the thunderbolts” was the humdinger against The Mancs in 2001-02? There was also the cup semi final goal against Chelsea, the numerous assists, and last but by no means least, the glorious winner in the Nou Camp.

It is that goal, the wake of Craig Bellamy’s loutish behaviour towards him a few nights before, that says a lot about Riise’s attitude. Rather than sue or court the press and try to turn to the fiasco to his advantage as his attacker and scorer of the other goal on that famous night did, Riise kept quiet, turned the other cheek and let his play do the talking.

I also had to laugh and give him the thumbs up this season when in response to likes of Carragher, who had gone out and said our Championship hopes were over, he said

“We never give up. Cowards give up.”

Top man John Arne Riise. Jamie Carragher seemingly held no grudges about this and paid him the following tribute

“John Arne has been a great player for Liverpool for six or seven seasons now. He can be very proud of what he’s achieved with Liverpool. He’s played at a very high level for a long time now. He’s never injured and he’s a great professional who has always looked after himself.”

What more can you add except to say thanks, and good luck with Roma. One final thing John, if Roma do win the Champions League, please don’t wear the Ken Dodd “Diddyman” hat you sported when we were presented with the cup in Istanbul!

Meanwhile in Euro 2008 Spain, after an early set back, overcame Greece. Reina and Arbeloa got a run out in the weakened side and promptly replicated their club’s habit of conceding goals from set pieces! However, it all turned out nice again and Xabi Alonso looked to have a storming game from the brief highlights I saw which included a cracking shot against the post.

Elsewhere by the time you read this either Portugal or the Germans will be in the semis. I believe that whoever wins this tie will progress to the final, even if Germany have to face Croatia, their group stage conquers, again. In the other half of the draw Italy having begun cold, moved on to simmering and now look to be coming nicely to the boil. I believe Spain will get burnt and that the Azzurri will also overcome Holland in the semis to ensure a repeat of the 1982 World Cup final.

There, I’ve said it , so that means it’s Turkey v Spain

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