Albert Riera has made an astonishing outspoken attack on his manager Rafa Benitez just prior to his team’s vital Europa League match against Lille tonight. It seems as though the Spanish winger has grown restless at his lack of first team opportunities in a World Cup year and this frustration has now been made public with his stinging criticism of Benitez’s coaching style.
Riera has only played twice for Liverpool since January, one as part of the starting 11 and once as a substitute in the Europa League and is now seeking a move away from Anfield in a desperate attempt to revive his ambitions of representing Spain in South Africa in the summer.
Riera told Radio Marca in Spain: “When the coach doesn’t say anything to you and you are in good shape with no physical problems and training well, you have no choice but to think [the fact you are not playing] is personal. The team’s playing badly and needs changes. If I’m doing something badly and you’re my boss and you trust in me, then you would tell me what I am doing wrong and what I have to do to play. The fact that Benítez has not said anything is what most hurts.
“Right now the only market open is the Russian one. I have offers from two clubs and, given my situation, that has made me reflect a lot. My objective is to go to the World Cup and for that to happen I have to play. He thinks he is in charge and he just turns a deaf ear to everyone else. The dialogue with the players is practically non-existent. There is a lack of tact.”
And as if all that wasn’t enough, Riera also took a swipe at Benitez’s credentials to manage Real Madrid – a job that his boss has been linked with – where Manuel Pellegrini is not expected to be in charge next season.
He said: “At Madrid they ask you to win and play lovely football. We are effective, sure, but we don’t play brilliant football.”
Was there really any need for such an outburst from Riera? These feelings have obviously been playing on his mind for quite a while but it seems a strange time for him to come out with it. It seems a bit too late for him to push for a place in his country’s World Cup squad, so this rant comes across as one of a desperate man purely annoyed at the lack of opportunities on Merseyside. Will Benitez be concerned by these remarks? On the basis that Riera is not one of his most important players he will not be – he can brush them off as bitter comments from someone not playing regularly. Benitez could counter by saying that the midfielder cannot be trusted and he does not have the mental strength to dig in and work his way back into the side. But, if these sentiments are shared by other players in the squad then it could highlight a problem in the Liverpool camp. Whichever way you look at it, it is hardly ideal preparation as the Reds look to overturn a one goal deficit tonight against their French opponents in their final bid to bring silverware to Anfield in this disappointing campaign.