Albert Riera - The Spanish winger on why he doesn't mind boozy Brits, his love of Swedish crime novels, and cheeky illegal music downloads.
Let's cut to the chase, Albert. Are Liverpool in crisis?
Crisis? No. Look, it's true that we've suffered the kind of results Liverpool are not used to. But everyone has got accustomed to a league where the champions finish with 88, 90 points and I don't think that's going to be the case this season. We'll see a league that's much closer, with more points taken off each other than in previous seasons. Manchester United aren't going to be so predominant – in fact they've already lost against Burnley – and all the teams will drop points. We've got a smaller margin for error than we'd like but you'll be able to win the league even if you lose five or six matches.
And at least Liverpool aren't dropping points with draws against weaker sides. Last year you drew 10 times.
Exactly. We only lost two matches but we let a lot of points slip because of drawing far too often against teams that, on the face of it, we should beat. The only side to take any points off us among the big four were Arsenal, who we drew with. In a way, we knew that what we really needed to change this season were results against the smaller teams. Maybe against them we needed to change the attitude a bit. This year, the feeling is different. Take Stoke: last year they took four points off us, two at home, two away, but we beat them 4-0 this season. In that sense you could say that we've started better. I said after the first two defeats against Spurs and Villa that I'd have been more worried if we'd only lost one game and it was against Burnley.
Lots of people are talking about Liverpool missing Xabi Alonso. But are fans missing the point? Is it inevitable that foreign players will leave eventually?
In the end, you want to be in your country. That's natural and, yes, I think it is inevitable. Of course I could find myself back in my own country tomorrow; everyone would understand that. But right now I'm very happy at Liverpool and I don't see a reason to go. The Premier League, Liverpool – those are two big attractions. You also never know what might happen. When I was at Manchester City I didn't want to go back to Spain or to Espanyol, but I had to. It's a question of seeing how you feel, of trying things. When Sami Hyypia turned up at Liverpool, he probably didn't expect to be there for 10 years, so you never know … I wouldn't mind following in Sami's footsteps.
You should have stayed at City… Haha!
Well, it's a very different club now to the one I was at. They've got a very impressive side. It may take a while for them to create a team but they've signed some very good players and they're doing well. I still think that the top four will continue to be the top four, though.
Spain has added Ronaldo, Kaká, and Ibrahimovic to a league that already had Messi, Villa and Casillas. Is La Liga now the best in Europe?
I don't think four or five signings make the Spanish league better. They're different: the Spanish league focuses more on the ball, it's technical and tactical but the English league has something special – it's got a joy and openness about it … there are lots of counter-attacks, it's very quick. If you can create a chance with two touches, why take 15?
You've lived in both: Liverpool or Manchester?
Liverpool, without doubt. Definitely. And Liverpool is an immense club – that's something you really see when you go abroad. In Liverpool you see the fans, the stadium, the atmosphere and it's very, very special but it really hits you when you go to other countries. We were in Singapore and Thailand and it was incredible. When I was in South Africa with the Spanish national team, I hardly saw Barcelona or Madrid shirts but I saw loads and loads of Liverpool ones. That really touches you.
Liverpool or Barcelona?
Liverpool … but first of all there's Mallorca, which is where I'm from, the place I miss most. Not just because of what the island is like – and everyone knows it's lovely – but because all my friends and family are there.
But it's packed with boozed-up Brits ...
That doesn't annoy me at all. The island's economy depends on them. It's like an ecosystem and it works. All I ask is for the island to be well looked after. I understand that when they are there it's a holiday and they let loose and enjoy themselves. Besides, there are a lot of permanent residents there now too and they really love the island. I've got no problem with that at all.
So no knotted-hankie wearing red-faced Brits in Room 101, then. What would you put in there? Eh?
Small Talk embarks on another desperately inadequate explanation of the Room 101 concept …
Maybe one of those companies that are always ripping us off, but I can't think of anything really. Luckily, right now I'm not at war with anyone or anything.
Speaking of wars. Who'd win a fight between a lion and a tiger?
Whoever's in the best shape going into the fight. They're both strong. I guess the lion has always been the king of the jungle, so I'd go for him.
Cheese or chocolate?
Chocolate. I have a very sweet tooth. Milk chocolate.
What was the last book you read?
Millennium, the trilogy by Stieg Larsson. It's got everyone hooked – quite a few of my team-mates are reading it too.
And the last CD you bought?
Erm, well, I probably shouldn't say this but I don't buy a lot of CDs because I tend to download them from the internet instead … and then of course if I like something I buy it. Of course. Ahem. The last one was probably The Killers. In the Spain dressing room we listen to a lot of English and American music and that's probably the latest one.
What have you got in your pockets?
My phone, it's important to stay in touch. And I usually have a few coins, a little bit of money in there, just in case. You never know, I might fancy a flutter…
Thanks for your time Albert. No worries, Small Talk.
Copyright - The Guardian