Albert Riera came up the ranks of RCD Mallorca’s youth system, and made his debut for the club at the end of 2000-2001, capping his performance with a goal.
His youthful zeal, combined with running power and the ability to give defenders the slip, quickly endeared him to the fans at the Islanders' then-stadium, Son Moix.
In 2002-03, Riera established himself in the side, taking part in what was a dream end to the season for the men from Son Moix. Despite struggling in the league, Mallorca swept Real Madrid and Deportivo la Coruña aside on their way to the final of the Copa del Rey.
At the final in Elche, they recorded a resounding 3-0 victory over Recreativo. A certain Samuel Eto’o scored two goals for Mallorca that day, but Albert Riera, too was also a regular in the side by then.
Big Spanish clubs were sniffing around Riera, with Atletico Madrid, Valencia and Deportivo La Coruña rumoured to be interested in acquiring his services.
Yet, the destination took almost everyone by surprise when the inevitable move came: a switch to Bordeaux.
Riera made an impressive 39 appearances for the Girondinsin his first season in France. Although he has never been a prolific scorer, Riera usually weighs in with a few goals, and this season in particular saw him find shooting form.
During his first UEFA Cup adventure, he found the net five times as Girondins reached the quarter finals before meeting Valencia, the eventual winners. Albert’s second season in France was less successful. He was in and out of the team and decided to return to Spain in 2005.
From Montjuic to Manchester
Albert Riera found himself in the Catalan capital, but the destination was the Olympic Stadium rather than the Camp Nou. The early indications at Espanyol were not great. Riera only made eight appearances for his new club in the first half of the 05-06 season and did not appear to be highly rated by Lotina, who was in charge at Montjuic.
Frustrated at the lack of first team football at Espanyol, Albert decided to try his luck in England. He signed a loan deal with Manchester City during the January 2006 transfer window.
Riera did well in his short spell in the Premiership, playing fifteen times for City and scoring against Newcastle. City manager Stuart Pearce was said to be keen to sign him permanently but no deal was agreed at the end of the season.
City had barely survived in the top division and back at Montjuic things were no different. Espanyol only stayed up thanks to a dramatic injury time goal in the last game of the season.
It may be that Riera’s short spell in England was time well spent. On his return to Espanyol, Riera soon found himself back in favour with new coach Ernesto Valverd,e who had arrived fresh from his own troubled spell at Athletic Bilbao.
Valverde noted that Riera had added discipline and a defensive aspect to his game. He was now working harder for the team when he didn’t have the ball. Before that, he had been a player who frustrated his coaches almost as much as he entertained the fans.
His sweet left foot, technical ability and quality crossing had never been in doubt, but in the modern game that is not enough to satisfy coaches who know that a work ethic is also required to get results. Riera had it, and he found regular football again under the new boss and added more consistency to his game.
He again inspired in the UEFA cup, turning in excellent performances as Espanyol stunned the likes of Benfica and Werder Bremen.
Back in the UK
Riera returned to Britain this May, where he was a standout for his club in the UEFA Cup final at Hampden Park. Espanyol and Scottish fans alike will remember his equalising goal for a long time to come.
It was a strike that typified Riera’s style. He picked up the ball on the left touchline in the middle of the park and surged forward before cutting inside Daniel Alves. He then delivered a shot with his weaker foot which the unlucky Brazilian deflected beyond Palop’s reach.
However, it wasn’t enough to stop Espanyol from suffering penalty shootout heartache for the second time in a UEFA Cup Final.
A rueful Ernesto Valverde watched from the sidelines, and knew only too well how his players felt. He was experiencing this feeling for the second time having been part of the Espanyol side which lost on penalties in Leverkusen in 1988 after throwing away a 3-0 first leg lead.
A Bright International Future
Riera continues to establish himself as one of his country’s best left-sided midfielders. His strong running and long stride make him hard to pin down. At 6'2" he can be a danger when on the end of crosses, too, as he showed recently against Real Madrid.
Espanyol have had a very good start to the season but whether Barcelona’s second most successful club can challenge for more trophies this season is open to debate.
The signs are good so far, though. For example, three of their players featured in Spain’s recent European Championship qualifier in Denmark.
Much of the Spanish media focus was on Raul Tamudo’s controversial selection ahead of his Real Madrid namesake but Luis Garcia and Albert Riera also featured, and Riera stood out. The Mallorcan appeared as a late substitute and stole the headlines with another wonder goal.
It’s been a checkered career so far for the 25 year-old. But Riera’s stock keeps rising. If he can continue to play consistently while scoring spectacular and important goals then he could well establish himself in the national team. It may only be a matter of time before bigger clubs come calling again.
Riera : 3 goals so far and he is a midfielder, while Tamudo has also bagged 3 and is a striker. Riera has played in all of Espanyol's games so far.
He deserves a 2 point rise from 88, or at least a 89:
Great goal against Denmark recently
His goal against Sevilla in UEFA Cup Final, against Daniel Alves:
Get him guys...