Riise: Bellamy could have ended my career with golf club attack

John Arne Riise Rafa Benitez Liverpool
Getty Images
The ex-Norway left-back gave his side of the story about the night he was attacked by his team-mate before a Champions League game against Barcelona

Former Liverpool star John Arne Riise says Craig Bellamy could have ended his career when he attacked him with a golf club in his hotel room in 2007.

The incident happened before a Champions League game against Barcelona when the team, then managed by Rafael Benitez, travelled to the Algarve for five days to do “light training, play golf, relax in the sun and socialise”.

But the turning point for Bellamy and Riise came when the players were having a meal without the coach or background staff present.

The former left-back says some players, including Bellamy, had been drinking before the match and the forward started winding him up before they started eating.

"Pretty soon a microphone appeared on the table and Bellamy bellowed into it: ‘Riise’s gonna sing! Riise’s gonna sing!’ He started before the food was served and continued while we ate,” Riise wrote in his autobiography, Running Man. “He was already quite drunk and I was already quite annoyed.

"Pretty soon Bellamy was over by the karaoke machine with the microphone in the hand: ‘Riise’s gonna sing! Riise’s gonna sing!’

“Furious, I went over to him: ‘I’m not singing. Shut the f*ck up or else I’m gonna smash you!’ He screamed back: ‘I’m gonna f*cking kill you, you ginger c***!’

"Bellamy shut up, and I left with Sami Hyypiä – who was just getting a little tipsy – and got a taxi back to the hotel. Agger hadn’t wanted to leave yet, so I promised to leave the door unlocked. Back in the room I fell asleep almost immediately. It was no later than half twelve.

Craig Bellamy, Liverpool

"I woke in the dark to hear someone opening the door. Obviously I thought it was Agger. I turned, but my eyes were half-asleep, and I didn’t see anything in the sudden, bright glare. But something made me realise that it wasn’t Agger. And soon I could see him – Craig Bellamy at the foot of my bed with a golf club in his hands.

"Steve Finnan, who shared a room with Bellamy, was there too, but he just stood there. Bellamy raised the club over his head and swung as hard as he could. He tried to hit my shins, which would have ended my career, but I managed to pull my leg away in time.

"I jumped out of bed, pulled off the sheet and held it between us like I was some kind of half-awake matador. Bellamy sputtered: ‘Nobody disrespects me like that in front of the lads!’ He was completely gone.

“I don’t care if I go to jail! My kids have enough money for school and everything. I don’t care. I’ll f*cking do you!” He raised the club and swung again. This time he connected. Full force on my hip. I was so pumped with adrenaline that I didn’t feel the pain, but he hit me hard. It was an iron.

"The next blow smashed into my thigh. I tried to hold up the sheet, but he continued to strike. He could seriously injure me. At the same time, I knew I could take Bellamy if I needed to. I was bigger and stronger.”

The ex-Norway international says he tried to calm his aggressor instead of retaliating as he feared it would end his Liverpool career. Although Bellamy scheduled a rematch with him, the incident did not go any further.

"I tried to calm him down: ‘Put down the club and let’s fight with our fists. Come on! A proper fight!’ He just stood and glowered at me,” Riise wrote. “Then he said: ‘Tomorrow at nine o’clock we’ll meet and finish this.’ Then he left.

“A lot of things had happened that night; I didn’t know about most of it because I’d gone to bed early, but when I looked out the window to see what all the racket was about I saw the flashing lights of a police car and our keeper, Jerzy Dudek, being bundled into the back in handcuffs. He was singing and pounding on the roof of the car.”

Craig Bellamy, Liverpool

The defender was shocked by some of his team-mates’ reactions the following day as they laughed at the incident, while Bellamy stayed quiet.

“The lads sat there, laughing amongst themselves,” he added. “After a while Bellamy showed up. He didn’t even glance at me. He grabbed some food and sat down. Not a sound.

“The sniggering continued at the training session. I didn’t like that they just laughed about it. One of our team-mates had attacked me and could have ended my career. Why did nobody challenge him about it? But they must have thought that this was a private matter between Bellamy and me.

“I felt like knocking him out. I would have been justified in giving him a pounding but I had too much respect for Benítez and the team.”

While Bellamy ended up with an £80,000 fine and was forced to apologise, he went on to mock the defender when he celebrated his goal against Barcelona and then set Riise up for the winning goal.

Article continues below

“He celebrated by running towards the corner flag, where he stopped and made a swinging motion, like he was holding a golf club,” he said. “I thought it was f*cking disrespectful. The celebration also revealed the sincerity of his apology.”

He added: “What Bellamy and myself proved was that we had the ability to use adversity to succeed. We handled the pressure and distinguished ourselves in one of the biggest matches you can play. But we could never be friends.

“My decision in the hotel room was sensible. I mean, the two of us were dads. But the feeling has stuck with me. I should have stood up for myself. Gerrard once said to me: ‘If I’d been in your shoes, I don’t think I would have managed’.”