Former Liverpool midfielder Albert Riera has reportedly been sacked by his club Udinese for skipping a match to play in a poker tournament.
The Spanish winger spent two years at Anfield after Rafa Benitez signed him from Espanyol in a deal worth £8million in 2008. Despite a few promising early performances, Riera struggled to get much playing time at all and was eventually offloaded to Olympiacos in 2010.
His career after that was one of a journeyman and his longest spell was three seasons with Galatasaray and he a short spell at Watford before signing for Udinese this year. He failed to make a single performance this season and is now a free agent looking for a club.
The Sunday Mirror report claims that the 32-year-old missed Udinese’s 1-1 draw at home to Chievo last Sunday because he was taking part in a poker tournament in Slovenia. This thursday they announced that his contract had been cancelled by ‘mutual consent’.
Skipping a match to play poker is, by itself, probably not the best idea, but when you add it to a Tweet he sent previously where he branded the Serie A outfit as “the worst club I’ve ever played for”, Riera’s situation doesn’t look great. Also, he’s played for Watford!
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Getting sacked and becoming an internet figure of fun this week will likely mean Riera is feeling a bit sore, but it wasn’t all bad - he came second in the tournament and won £3000.
Injury has been a problem for his most of his career, with various problems meaning most seasons did not go by without him being interrupted by a spell in the treatment room. That will always mean it is difficult to get a run of games and play himself into form.
Riera may struggle to find a new club after this episode, with his reputation taking a bit of a pounding. However, if he can’t find new employers any time soon, it looks as though he could have a promising career as a poker player.