John Arne Riise Liverpool UEFA Champions League Istanbul 2005

Cult Hero: John Arne Riise

Words: Hugh Morris
Images: Alex Livesey/Getty Staff

What was so special about Liverpool’s hard-hitting Norwegian left-back?

John Arne Riise was a much-loved Liverpool player from 2001 to 2008. But why? Well, almost everything about him is great. For a start, Riise ran half the length of the pitch to score the last goal in a 3-1 victory over local rivals Everton in only his second start for the trophy-laden English club. Then there’s his goal celebration – he used to pull his shirt over his head and slide on his knees, which is how you thought every goal should be celebrated when you were a kid. He also had a left foot that struck like a sonic boom, with some of his long-range goals clocking over 110kph.

Here are six more things that make John Arne Riise a quiet Liverpool legend.

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John Arne Riise Liverpool Stats

31 goals in 348 games

Bought for: £4m from Monaco

Sold for: £4m to Roma

Debut: against Manchester United in the 2001 Community Shield (a 2-1 win for Liverpool)

Honours: FA Cup 2006; League Cup 2003; Champions League 2005; Community Shield 2002 and 2007; UEFA Super Cup 2002 and 2006

1. His left foot

Very few players have hit the ball harder or straighter than Riise. Sure, he only scored 30-odd goals over seven years, but when he did find the net, you took notice. Let’s not forget poor old Alan Smith, either – the Manchester United player once blocked a Riise free-kick – the force was such that it broke his leg. 

2. This sensational goal

Riise hit many sweet strikes in his career. Of his time on Merseyside, this goal against Manchester United in 2001 stands out as particularly beautiful. The way the United wall – anxious, tetchy – knows what’s coming; the way Riise sprints onto Didi Hamann’s tee-up; the shot’s rising trajectory and the aesthetically pleasing clip of the bar on its way in. This free-kick is a set-piece in both the dramatic and the sporting sense. A truly great goal.

3. He loved playing in cup finals

Riise provided the cross for Steven Gerrard to head Liverpool’s first goal in the 2005 Champions League final. It was the moment that sparked the ‘Miracle of Istanbul’ – the Reds’ legendary comeback from 0-3 down to win against AC Milan. (He may have missed his penalty an hour later, but it didn’t matter – Liverpool still lifted the trophy.)

Riise also seemed to save his goals for Chelsea, including the fastest goal in League Cup Final history: this scorching volley on 45 seconds.

4. He didn’t do overstatement

Riise is a man of few words, but two quotes do show his passion for Liverpool.

In the autumn of 2006, the Reds languished 14 points behind league leaders Manchester United. But, when asked, did Riise concede a title win was impossible? Of course not. He said: “We never give up. Cowards give up.”

Having scored an own goal against Chelsea in the 2008 Champions League semi-final first leg, that night he was the last to leave Anfield. His only comments to the waiting press were: “What can I say? I’m just so disappointed.”

5. He’s way more interesting than your average footballer

Until 2016, Riise had never tried a beer. His reaction video, above, is pretty special.

He also has a blog that’s a bit peculiar, but you’ll need to be able to read Norwegian to fully appreciate it.

6. His chant was very special

 

To the tune of DJ Ötzi’s ‘Hey Baby (Uhh, Ahh)’… 

Ooooo… 
John Arne Riise
I wanna know oow oow
How you scored that goal

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03/2017 The Red Bulletin

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