Albert Riera has signed for Liverpool this afternoon as the summer transfer deadline draws near to a close.
Although manager Rafa Benítez hasn’t seen all his summer plans comes to fruition, he’s been linked with a move for the Spanish left-winger for some time, and is believed to have paid Espanyol around £8m for his services.
The announcement was made a couple of hours after Steve Finnan’s move in the opposite direction had been made public. Finnan has been one of Liverpool’s unsung heroes during his time at the club, but he’s now embarking on a new stage of his career with Espanyol – the fee wasn’t disclosed, but it’s believed that disagreement between the two clubs over what that fee should be had held up the Riera deal.
Riera has now flown back to Spain for a couple of days; he’ll be back in England in midweek ready to start his Reds career.
The usual transfer deadline was extended by a day due to 31st August falling on a Sunday, and although there are a few hours left there isn’t any big news expected from Melwood or Anfield today.
The Riera-Finnan move hasn’t been the only business for Rafa today.
Andriy Voronin has been linked with a move back to Germany for most of the summer, and this move finally took place today. However it wasn’t a permanent deal, the striker has gone on loan for one year, to Hertha Berlin. The Ukrainian was signed on a free transfer last summer, but despite some early shows of promise on the whole was unable to get any kind of regular place in the starting line-up. Although it is only a loan deal, it reduces the club’s wage bill and should also see a fee being paid for Hertha’s 12 month’s use of his talents.
Young Hungarian goalkeeper Peter Gulacsi spent last season on loan at Anfield, and that move was made permanent today, the 18-year-old signing from MTK Hungaria.
Liverpool also signed a Brazilian striker – 18-year-old Vito Flora, who came on a free transfer from Botafogo. There should be any work-permit problems with the player, who holds an Italian passport. And given recent issues for Liverpool players with Italian passports we can only assume the club checked this one out more thoroughly.
Manager Rafa Benítez spoke highly of his most expensive signing of the day: “Riera has the qualities we were looking for. He’s a left footer who normally plays on the left wing; he’s good in the air, strong, powerful and a good crosser of the ball. 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.”
One criticism of Liverpool that goes back many years is a lack of width, and Rafa seems happy Riera can provide this. He says he’s had his eye on him for quite a while: “We’ve known about him for a long time, since he was at Mallorca and then through his career with Bordeaux, Manchester City and Espanyol.”
That time at Manchester City was on loan, but the experience he got in that time did him no harm when Rafa looked at the options open to him on his limited summer budget: “He can talk English and of course he knows the Premier League, which is a big bonus. Usually foreign players need time when they go to a new country, but Riera already knows the league and the style of football.”
It’s believed that Everton had made an offer matching Espanyol’s full asking price, only to find the player was unwilling to join them. He wanted to play for Liverpool: “He also had offers from other English clubs,” said Rafa, “but he said no to them because he wanted to come and play for us. That means a lot to me because it shows the commitment he has to play for Liverpool.”
One player who did provide width for Liverpool – but seemingly not of a quality acceptable to Rafa – was right-winger Jermaine Pennant and although time is ticking on he could yet move elsewhere. A £4m move to Stoke is believed to have been turned down by the former Arsenal and Birmingham player.
Some rumours earlier in the day suggested (as is becoming traditional in any transfer window) that Michael Owen could be on his way to take back the number 10 shirt just vacated by Andriy Voronin. Earlier in the summer there were some whispers that Rafa had been asked to consider Owen instead of Keane. The savings made on that transfer would have allowed Barry to be bought without Xabi Alonso being sold, but whatever the truth in those rumours Rafa went ahead and bought Keane, and the Barry deal fell through. Any move for Owen would have to be very much at a cut price anyway, Rafa having now pretty much used up his budget. And rumours in the North East later in the day were linking Owen with a move back to the club he supported as a boy, the team just turned down by Albert Riera.
Liverpool are going to be one striker short for the next few weeks, after the club got confirmation of the extent of the injury to Fernando Torres hamstring. Torres left the field early in Liverpool’s dour draw with Aston Villa yesterday, and today a spokesman said: “A scan this afternoon has confirmed a hamstring tear in Fernando’s right leg. He is expected to be out for between two and three weeks.” The international break means his absence will have less of an impact than it perhaps might have had.
Meanwhile Liverpool’s 19-year-old reserve striker Craig Lindfield has had his loan to Bournemouth extended until the end of the year. He scored Bournemouth’s goal in their 3-1 loss against Port Vale at the weekend, and although glad to score is more concerned with his temporary club’s fortunes: “I’m pleased but I want to win games. There are two teams on zero points but I think this team is too good to go down,” he said.