Navy Blues say farewell to Riera

Words: ACFC Media

Tuesday 4 May 2021

Picture: Phototek

AUCKLAND, New Zealand - One of Kiwitea Street's favourite sons Albert Riera leaves the Navy Blues to take on the head coach role at West Coast Rangers - we take a look back at Riera's career as a new chapter begins.

Coach José Figueira also paid tribute to Riera's contribution under his tenure as he reluctantly accepted the reality that the coaching opportunity set before the 37-year-old midfielder was the right move at the right time for him.

"Albert is moving onto an exciting coaching opportunity at West Coast Rangers as their new head coach and while it is tough to lose a player and personality of his class we recognise his heart is set on a new challenge.

"It has been an absolute pleasure working with Albert over the past few seasons who day in day out truly lived the standards and values the clubs lives and breathes.

"Albert not only leads by example on and off the pitch, but he always had time for the younger players around him to provide advice and support.

"I have no doubt that Albert will have a bright future in coaching and everyone at Kiwitea Street wishes him all the best," Figueira told www.aucklandcityfc.com.

Albert Riera, full name Albert Riera Vidal, made his debut for Auckland City FC on 21 February 2011, coming on as a substitute in the 73rd minute of a match against AS Magenta in the 2010–11 OFC Champions League.

He arrived in New Zealand as a back packer having played semi-professional football with Binéfar, Atlético Monzón, Balaguer, Benavent and Mollerussa.

Signed by then coach Ramon Tribulietx, described Riera as "a player of great experience who gives us a different dimension to our game. He gives something different to teams both with the ball and without it. Albert was a very smart player and proved he can compete at A-League standard and he was one of the best players in the competition during his three years in it."

Riera signed for the Wellington Phoenix on 7 October 2013 and made his debut as a substitute against Brisbane Roar. Riera's impact on the Phoenix saw him named the Phoenix's Player of the Year for 2013-14. The Barcelona-born midfielder
played in the A-League All Stars match against Juventus where Riera played the full 90 minutes in a 3-2 defeat against such stars as Paul Pogba, Carlos Tevez, Andrew Pirlo, Patrice Evra and Gianluigi Buffon.

While Riera was a clear standout during his three seasons in the A-League, his heart was always at Kiwitea Street and he re-signed for the Navy Blues for the start of the 2016-17 season, once again linking up with Tribulietx and then Figueira.

Then Phoenix coach Ernie Merrick was another coach at pains to lose Riera to Auckland City FC but the amiable Scot, like so many others, recognised that once the player had his mind made up and set on an objective, that was that.

"It didn't surprise me to see Albert go back to Auckland City FC.

"Fulltime professional football wasn't in Albert's makeup, he thoroughly enjoyed his time with us, but he felt there were other things he wanted to do at Kiwitea Street.

"He's a terrific player, a terrific character and I'll keep in touch with him. When he left, I hoped he did really well for Auckland City FC," Merrick said at the time of Riera's return to Sandringham.

At 33, Riera was playing a cameo role in his outings for Auckland City FC but managed to make his 100th appearance for the club in a 0-0 friendly draw with UAE club side Al-Ittihad on November 29, 2017.

In total, Riera played 142 games for Auckland City FC, scoring twice. He is listed seventh in the club's All-time appearances list behind Angel Berlanga (214/8), James Pritchett (203/5), Emiliano Tade (178/118), Ivan Vicelich (171/15), Mario Bilen (160/6) and Chad Coombes (151/26).

Riera became a New Zealand citizen in October 2018 and despite always being linked with a possible All Whites career the opportunity to represent his adopted country never materialised.

"Coming here as a back packer and now contemplating an All Whites career was unbelievable.

"It's something I would've liked to have done. I would do it without hesitation and it would've been a great honour.

"I applied for New Zealand citizenship and [they] tried to fast track it but it wasn't an easy process.

"It needed to go higher up and was out of my hands in the end.

"It would've been a great opportunity to give back from everything I have received from this country because I'm very glad for all the experiences I have had," he said at the time.

With appearances for Auckland City FC becoming less regular, Riera found himself at West Coast Rangers coaching their U-23 side with Berlanga and with the new club struggling in both the Northern League and U-23 Premier Division, Riera stepped into the top role earlier this week.

Bidding farewell to Kiwitea Street as a player wasn't easy but he left behind words of encouragement for his former team-mates.

"I am sure the team will bounce back after last week's result at North Shore United.

"Auckland City FC's squad is full of quality and if they continue to work hard and persevere they will return to top form.

"I want to thank everyone for their support and wish the club all the best for the rest of the season," he said.

Ends

Player Profile
Name: Albert Riera
Born: Barcelona, Spain
Position: Midfield
Age: 27
Previous clubs: Binéfar, Atlético Monzón, Balaguer, Benavent, Mollerussa, Auckland City FC, Wellington Phoenix, Central United FC
Club appearances: 142
Club goals: 2

Honours
FIFA Club World Cup 2011, 2012, 2017 (3)
OFC Champions League winners 2010-11, 2011-12, 2012-13, 2016-17 (4)
Nike Lunar New Year Cup 2017 (1)
ISPS Handa Premiership winners 2017-19, 2019-20 (2)
ISPS Handa Premiership League winners 2011-12, 2016-17, 2017-18, 2018-19, 2019-20, 2020-21 (6)
NZF Charity Cup 2011-12, 2016-17, 2018-19, 2019-20, 2020-21 (5)

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