Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez finally ended his long search for a leftwinger last night when he completed the £8m signing of Albert Riera from Espanyol.
The Spain midfielder, who spent a loan spell at Manchester City during the 2005-06 season, signed a four-year contract at Anfield after rejecting interest from other Premier League clubs. Riera, 26, who has won five international caps, has excelled since returning to Spain and helped Espanyol reach the 2007 UEFA Cup final. The Mallorcan will now be expected to fill a position that Benitez sees as key to mounting a challenge for silverware.
“Riera has the qualities we were looking for,” said Benitez. “He’s a left footer who normally plays on the wing, he’s good in the air, strong, powerful and a good crosser. He’s the kind of player we have been talking about. He can beat players and get good deliveries into the area for our strikers. He can talk English and of course knows the Premier League, which is a big bonus.”
While Mallorca-born Riera swapped Espanyol for Merseyside, Republic of Ireland full-back Steve Finnan moved in the opposite direction. The 32-year-old has signed a two-year deal at the Barcelona-based club.
Riera’s arrival was a timely boost for Liverpool after it was confirmed that last season’s top scorer Fernando Torres will be side-lined for around three weeks – including this month’s clash with champions Manchester United – with a torn hamstring.
Benitez’s striking options were further weakened by Ukraine forward Andriy Voronin joining Hertha Berlin on a season-long loan.
Meanwhile, Liverpool signed Brazilian striker Vitor Flores, 18, on a free transfer, and handed a two-year deal to 18-year-old Hungarian goalkeeper Peter Gulacsi.