In the spirit of fraternity and simple sincerity, I’m going to admit something to you right now. For as much as I love, worship and admire Francesco Totti’s brilliance and Daniele De Rossi’s combustible spirit, John Arne Riise is the reason I am a Roma fan. The ginger haired, square jawed Norwegian, the man with an ICBM dangling at the end of his left leg is the very reason you’re reading these words right now.
In case you’re new around here, let me offer a bit of a preamble. I grew up loathing the sport I currently hold so dear, but through a series of fortuitous twist and turns I begrudgingly accepted the beautiful game into my life, succumbing to Roma’s siren song in nearly the same breath.
And while I had at least a passing knowledge of Totti and De Rossi, I was your typical football neophyte, ignorant to everything but English football. So when my newly adopted team signed Riise...the John Arne Riise from the Liverpool...I was quite naturally intrigued, and as luck would have it, Riise’s rise with Roma coincided with my discovery of our old website. An obsession was born.
So, as we continue with our Reliving Roma series, you’ll have to indulge my Norwegian Nostalgia.
After nearly a decade wowing Liverpool fans with his gritty play and thunderous left boot—a spell that included an FA Cup and a Champions League title—Riise suddenly found himself on the outside looking in, falling behind Fabio Aurelio in the leftback pecking order at Merseyside.
However, Liverpool’s loss was Roma’s gain, as, for only €5 million, they reaped three successful seasons from the Norwegian. Riise wasted little time endearing himself to his new fanbase, scoring a crucial goal against Inter on the road, his first for Roma.
Geez, look at the names in that video, look at those kits, look at the skinny Maicon! Where does the time go?
And while we’re at it, I’d be remiss if I didn’t include the following goal, his stoppage time winner against Juventus, a goal that sent Carlo Zampa into hysterics:
While Riise’s time in Roma wasn’t quite as prolific as his heydays with Liverpool, he was as steady as a rock for three seasons, making over 100 appearances and scoring eight goals in all competitions. Quite frankly, Roma has yet to replace his production at left back, which speaks volumes.
Well, we sort of just hit upon it, didn’t we? Riise was a man apart from the Ashley Cole-type moves we’ve seen in recent years. At 28-years-old, Riise still had plenty left in the tank, and though he was never meant to replicate his peak-Liverpool days, he gave Roma three seasons of consistent production and unwavering commitment; he was an essential cog in Luciano Spalletti’s late-00s teams, partnering with Christian Panucci to give Roma an experienced and aggressive fullback duo.
Without Riise’s athleticism, tenacity and aggression, the Roma teams of the late 2000s would have been missing a vital component, one which, as we just mentioned, they have yet to replicate in the ensuing five plus seasons since his departure.
After leaving Roma, Riise went on to play for several increasingly obscure clubs, but his heart was never far from Roma, as he can often be seen voicing his support for the Giallorossi on Twitter
While he won’t necessarily go down as one of the all-time club greats, you’d be hard pressed to find a more loved (non Roman) in club history. His forward runs, bombastic celebrations and jaw dropping long distance shots endeared him to the Eternal City like few before him, or since for that matter.
John Arne Riise was like a long, arching bolt of lightning magically bottled in the finest crystal, a key component to a Roma team that played some of the most beautiful football the game has ever seen, and for that reason, we will always cherish him.