After having successful stints with teams like Liverpool and AS Roma, John Arne Riise is now in India for the second year playing in the Indian Super League. The Norwegian was influential for the Delhi Dynamos last season and he will be looking to do better this season to help Chennaiyin FC defend their Indian Super League title.
The 36-year-old has played 682 games, scored a total of 52 goals and provided 34 assists, in all club competitions he has played thus far. For his national team, Norway, Riise has 110 caps, 16 goals and 5 assists. The Chennaiyin FC player has won the UEFA Champions League (2005-Liverpool), UEFA Super Cup (2001, 2005-Liverpool), Ligue 1 and several other cups. Riise has also won the Norwegian player of the year in 2006.
The Champions League winner opened up to Sportskeeda on various topics such as his career with Liverpool and his future plans.
Here are the excerpts from the interview:
You have played in different positions varying from left back, left midfield, defensive midfield and now centre back. Which position did you enjoy the most?
Centre back. With my experience and the way I play football, I would like to have the game in front of me. I like to use my strength, my heading, my left foot, the ability to read the game. So, I feel I can use my best as a centre back. Also, Marco (Materazzi) asked me where I would prefer to play and I said centre back. I played as a centre back last year for Delhi (Dynamos). I enjoyed it and this season it'll be the same.
We all have heard stories about this but would like to hear it from you. What was the atmosphere inside the dressing room after the first half against AC Milan in the 2005 Champions League finals?
The feeling was very bad. You are losing 3-0. You are not happy. You are a little bit embarrassed because it is a final and you are losing 3-0 after one-half. Everybody head gone down, disappointed. But we went to second half and (Rafa) Benitez said something. We made a few changes, both players, and tactics. What I was thinking was not to lose the second half.
Try to keep the score like it is or maybe get the first goal, you never know. Then we score three goals in six minutes which changed everything. The whole game and the night was up and down. We were up when we started the game, then we went down, then up, then middle and up again. So, it was a tough night mentally but the best night.
What was the feeling after you did the impossible in Istanbul?
We came back to the hotel. We did a hundred interviews, drug testing, everything and when we came to the hotel we wanted to celebrate but we were so tired. So most of us went to bed because the game was long and hard. We were so exhausted from the emotions. So we came to the hotel, we had some food, had a couple drinks and went straight to bed, but when we came back to Liverpool we had a big party.
But after the game, it was a drink or two. It was almost too big to believe that it happened. I have come from a little city in Norway and here I am lifting the biggest trophy in the football world. So it was a big night.
How did you feel like when you missed your penalty against AC Milan that night?
I had cramp for the last 35 minutes of the game. Extra time and five minutes of normal time, I had cramps. I didn't want to change because it was the biggest game in my life, so I kept playing. When the penalty was there I said I want to take the penalty. When I walked with the ball, normally I would smash it as hard as I can but I was scared that when I put my foot down I would get cramps.
So I decided to place it. I didn't realize that Dida (AC Milan goalkeeper) went to the same side every time. For all the penalties before he went to the same side and I didn't see this. So I put my penalty on his right corner and he went the same side again. It was a good penalty to the right part of the post but he chose the right side. But they (AC Milan)had missed twice already before that so it wasn't a big big big disappointment. However, I would always like to score and at the end we won and I don't care about my miss.
You have played with two very legendary players that is Steven Gerrard and Francisco Totti. What lessons did you learn from these two fantastic players?
I am very honoured and privileged to have played with these two players because they are the two best players I have played with. Gerrard was more complete because he had everything. He has power and stamina, heading and shooting but Totti is just Totti.
He is a technical genius. He is so big in Rome and he was a really really nice guy. I had a good friendship with and I still have. Being able to be a part of those players history, that's a very amazing thing. When I retire I know I have played with those guys. I shall do my best and help them and be friends with them and learn from them. Can't explain what you learn, but it's certain things what they do that just gets in your head. It was a big honour.
Who do you think is better out of the both?
They are so different that you can't compare. They two are the best I have played with but they are so different and you can't compare the players. I am just happy that I have played with both of them.
Do you still follow Liverpool?
Yes, of course. Every game.
So what do you think about Jurgen Klopp?
I love Jurgen Klopp first of all. His emotions, his passion for the team, the way he is playing his football, the high pressing game. I think it may be too soon to fight for the title this year but they have started too good so maybe they can do it this year also. Next year definitely (they can do it). I think Manchester City this year is going to be very strong but the way Liverpool are playing now I think they can challenge.
And also Liverpool don't have so many games. They don't have Europe. They don't have all these games and I think that's helping.
Who was the best player you have ever played with and against?
With is Gerrard and Totti but have to say, Gerrard because he was more complete. Played against, well I have played against Gerrard also but I'll say (Lionel) Messi.
You have played in top football leagues like Ligue 1, the English Premier League, Serie A. To which of these leagues can you compare Indian Super League to?
It's different. We have to understand that these (European) leagues have been going on for many many years. The Indian Super League has just started. So it takes time to build the League and build the teams and the reputation. My target is to help Indian players get abroad. Give them experience and help them able to get a chance to play abroad. And about the Indian Super League, I learned two days ago that it was the third most viewed league last year.
This tells you something. It gets bigger every year, better every year. I see more and more players are coming. Even people in Norway have started asking me about the League and the players, how the standard is. They are willing to come and play here. Maybe next year we will see more and more players reaching here.
Who do you think is the player with the most potential among the Indians in the Chennaiyin squad?
I think Jeje (Lalpekhlua). He is a striker who can be really really good. He is good now, of course, but he can be even better. He is strong, powerful, can score goals. You have (Mehrajuddin) Wadoo. I think he can be a very good defender. Jayesh (Rane), he is more of a tactical player. They all have potential, it just depends on how they make their next steps.
How hard they work and how professional they are. They are professional. Those three players can go forward, but I think Jeje as a striker, because strikers gets seen more as they score goals. I think he is the one who can maybe go all the way.
What do you think Indian football needs to do to come up to the level of European nations?
Keep doing what they are doing. Bring in the experienced players from Europe, from the rest of the world. Have more sponsors. Have younger kids to play more organised because that's what we do in Europe. We start from a young age, play football in the streets but organised. Here in India you play football in the streets but there's no organization. Nothing, no coaches, nothing.
In Norway, UK and Italy you have more organised football. It takes time. From last year to this year there's a big difference for me. I see the Indian players are even better. They learn more, they work hard. Just keep doing what they are doing and it's going to be big.
What are your future plans? Would you like to be a manager someday?
Yes. I already started in Norway doing the license and maybe next year I will come back here as a coach. I will see. People already ask me about next. I would like to use my experience to help other young players and teams. Management is something I definitely want to do.