From the publishers of THE HINDU
VOL.34 :: NO.37 :: Sep. 15, 2011
When John Arne Riise left Liverpool for AS Roma in 2008, one could be justified in thinking that would be the last the Barclays English Premier League would see of the Norwegian.
Poor form on Merseyside wasn't helped by stiff competition from Fabio Aurelio, and when Riise headed in an own goal against Chelsea during a crucial UEFA Champions League semifinal, it seemed his time was up at Anfield.
It came as a surprise therefore when Martin Jol, manager of Fulham, brought Riise back to English top-flight football this summer. At 30 years of age, Jol isn't signing a bright, young, untested talent but a player some would argue enjoyed his purple patch five years ago.
Riise started his professional career at Norwegian club Aalesund FK, and before long attracted the attention of AS Monaco. In 1998 he joined the French side and won his first piece of major silverware, the French Ligue 1 title, in 2000.
Riise stayed three seasons before transferring to Liverpool for GBP4.6 million, where even greater success was to come. Known for his speed down the wing and incredible accuracy from long range, Riise made the left-back position his own at Anfield for many years. In his first two seasons at the club he only missed one Premier League appearance and won the League Cup in 2003.
Under Rafael Benitez's management, Liverpool's trophy cabinet filled with silverware; most famously in 2005, where Riise was instrumental in his club clawing back from a three-goal deficit against AC Milan in the UEFA Champions League final. That night in May 2005, Riise played left midfield in a formation Benitez hoped would surprise Milan.
Having been 3-0 down at half-time, Riise combined with Steven Gerrard to offer the Reds a lifeline early in the second-half. Two more goals followed and the tie went to penalties.
Riise stepped up to take Liverpool's second spot-kick, and although his effort was saved, his side went on to win 3-2 and claim the European Cup for a fifth time.
A consistent presence in the Liverpool defence, Riise never played less than 28 Premier League games in any of his seven seasons.
However, in his final two years at the club he began to lose his form. One of Riise's main attributes has always been his goal-scoring ability, proven by his magnificent volley against Chelsea in the 2005 League Cup final. But when the goals dried up, so did the interest.
Attention turned to Riise's defensive capabilities, where a reduction in sharpness and reluctance to use his right boot often got the full-back into trouble. Poor form and an evident lack of confidence culminated in Riise's own goal against Chelsea in 2008, and in doing so effectively ended his time as one of the Kop's modern-day heroes.
A transfer to AS Roma in 2008 came as no surprise, but after three years of regular football in Italy, Riise was deemed unworthy of a new contract.
Once again a somewhat comical mistake marked the end of his time at a club. Again in Champions League action, Riise fell over as he was about to clear, allowing Shakhtar Donetsk's Douglas Costa to pick up the ball, play into the Roma box and watch Luiz Adriano score. Shakhtar qualified for the quarterfinals.
What Fulham has acquired in Riise is a defender with more experience than when he left the Premier League three years previously. Riise has grown in confidence — regardless of his mistake at Roma — and understands the intricacies of English football.
He has earned 96 caps for his country, and at Fulham has joined up with brother Bjorn Helge, who signed for the Cottagers in 2009.
The last year of Riise's career at Liverpool resulted in more own goals than goals. Without his scoring ability, manager Rafa Benitez opted to start full-back Fabio Aurelio instead of the Norwegian.
He is married to Maria Elvegaard Riise and they have one daughter, Emma. Riise was also married to Norwegian model Guri Havnevik in 2003, but divorced a year later. The pair has a daughter, Ariana.
Name: John Arne Riise
Position: Left-back or winger
Norway caps: 96
Norway goals: 13
Norway debut: v Iceland, 2000
Moment to remember
Riise hit a free-kick against Manchester United in 2001 so hard it almost burst through the net. It was his first season for Liverpool, and went a long way in securing his popularity among the club's fans.
Moment to forget
Deflecting a cross with a diving header into his own goal, Riise condemned his Liverpool side to an impossible task of beating Chelsea in the semifinals of the 2008 UEFA Champions League.
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