From Balague's website:
Many have questioned Albert Riera's abilities following his previous stint in English football at Manchester City. However, it would be wrong to judge him on his short spell at Eastlands: he was not given the opportunity to play in his natural, attacking, position, and spent his time there being used as a wing back.
I've had hundreds of e-mails and comments from Liverpool fans asking for my opinion of Riera - and please keep your questions and comments coming in:
Dave, from Liverpool, asks: 'Our new signing, Albert Riera. I know very little about him, and have heard very mixed reports. The price seems decent and Rafa seems happy, but there's a few question marks:
What kind of player is he?
Is he Liverpool standard?
What's the best position to play him in?
Will he settle in Liverpool and make the left side berth his own?
Others have expressed some concerns: Victor. P in London said: 'Liverpool have just bought Albert Riera, do you feel he has the mental strength to become a success at Liverpool, because he strikes me as a very in and out player and I heard Graham Hunter say he has grave doubts that Riera is the player that will give us the incisive thrust that we are looking for, hinting that he falls short of the top class signing the club should have made.'
Well guys, let me start by saying that, when he is on form, Albert Riera can be one of the best left wingers in Europe. I'd even go as far as saying that, on his best days, he is the best left winger in Europe. I do realise that this is quite a claim and I must stress that this is only something that we will see when he is on form, playing in an attacking wide position, confident and happy.
Unfortunately, that form can suffer: Riera is someone who can struggle with consistency, he will constantly need an arm around his shoulders and be made to feel important if any manager wants to get the best out of him. He started last term at Espanyol in fabulous form, but without receiving that kind of attention, his form can dip dramatically, as it did over the second half of the season. He's even been known to put on some excess weight if his confidence suffers or he loses focus.
To avoid that happening, and to get the very best out of him, he therefore needs to feel that he is a key player and cannot spend to long keeping the bench warm. Thankfully, I don't think that will happen at Liverpool: as someone close to the manager told me, 'If anyone is going straight in to the side, it's Riera - we simply don't have a better option for the left wing.'
Riera has a powerful shot that is particularly effective from outside the box, he is a strong header of the ball and he is capable of taking on and beating defenders: in spite of not being the quickest around.
If there is one criticism of his play, it is that he often spends too long on the ball. His natural position is as a winger in a 4-2-3-1 formation and, if he does end up playing in a 4-4-2, then Rafa will need to be constantly on top of him to remind him of his defensive responsibilities: Albert isn't particularly fond of tracking back.
However, the Liverpool coach knows all about him - his strengths and his weaknesses - and will be fully prepared to get the best out of him, I'm sure. And, as Riera told me when he signed, he has joined Liverpool because he wants to 'learn to be a better player under Rafa Benitez.'
In my opinion, the signs are there that - under the right conditions - Albert Riera will turn out to be very good acquisition for Liverpool.
Not exactly encouraging.....