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Riera returns to Auckland City roots

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 21/09/2016
Albert Riera in action for the Phoenix. © Will Russell/Getty Images Albert Riera in action for the Phoenix.

Former Wellington Phoenix midfielder Albert Riera will return to his New Zealand roots when he lines up for Auckland City FC against Melbourne City on Sunday.

The 32-year-old Spaniard last season completed a three-year stint at the Wellington Phoenix, signed by coach Ernie Merrick from Auckland City in 2013.

Riera opted to cut short his contract at the Phoenix in May this year, saying he no longer had the appetite for professional football.

His return to Auckland City hasn't surprised Merrick, however.

"Full-time professional football wasn't in Albert's make-up," Merrick said in Wellington on Thursday.

"He thoroughly enjoyed his time with us, but he felt there were other things he wanted to do and it was time to call it quits.

"He's a terrific player, a terrific character, and we'll keep in touch with him. Hopefully he does really well for Auckland City, especially in the club world championships."

Auckland City coach Ramon Tribulietx is happy to have Riera back on board as his team prepare for the Club World Cup in Japan later this year.

"It's great to have a player of Albert's experience. He can give us a different dimension to our game. He not only gives us something different with the ball but also without it," Tribulietx said.

"Albert's a very smart player and proved he can compete at A-League standard and be one of the best players in the competition."

Auckland City will face the yet-to-be-determined J-League winners in Yokohama in a December 8 play-off, the winner advancing to a clash with the winners of Africa's Champions League competition in the quarter-finals.

Beyond that, a semi-final with the champions of South America awaits, replicating the route Auckland City FC took when they won bronze in Morocco two years ago.

Riera will come up against a familiar face on Sunday in the John van't Schip-coached Melbourne City, who signed former Phoenix defender Manny Muscat in the off-season.

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