St Andrews was the latest stage on which Liverpool have faltered in this most disappointing season. The Reds’ away form has been atrocious and they are now seriously up against it in their bid for Champions League football next campaign. But there has been some good news in the past couple of weeks, for the Merseysiders’ fantastic goalkeeper, Pepe Reina, has recently committed his long term future to the club that has really taken him to heart.
The Madrid-born star has been Liverpool’s most consistent performer this year and has signed a four-year contract extension to keep himself at Anfield until 2016. This will delight Liverpool supporters, not only because they will now see the Spanish stopper turning out for their beloved club for the foreseeable future but also because it demonstrates that the atmosphere in the club is still good despite the turmoil that has gone on. Reina obviously still feels Liverpool will have success in the coming years and, as an integral part of the dressing room, this says a lot.
Add to this the rumours that Reina’s former club Barcelona were said to be interested in signing the ‘keeper and his popularity will only continue to rise. In a time when it is not uncommon to see footballers changing clubs with the wind, it is refreshing to see one who is prepared to stick around. And the high esteem in which Reina is held in by the Anfield faithful was clear in the game against Portsmouth a couple of weeks ago, when a fan on the Kop displayed a banner costing £200, as a tribute to the Spaniard.
Reina told the Daily Mail: “I didn’t see the flag, but I have been told about it. I am grateful we have fans like that and it is the sort of thing that made it easy for me to stay here. When I think of that lad and what he did, it makes me feel really proud and really lucky. It is always important to have people behind you and when there is a flag with your name or face on it, and it is clear someone has put themselves out to do it, then it is special.
“I don’t see it as a sacrifice, signing for so long, and it doesn’t make any difference to me if some people are saying I could have had my pick of clubs across Europe. I have talked it through with my wife and we don’t see any better place to go. It is personal as well as professional. The education of my child is another factor and I feel it would be brilliant for my kids to grow up speaking two languages. I want them to speak English as well as Spanish and if it turns out to be with a Scouse accent, I will still be proud of them! From a professional point of view, Liverpool are one of the best clubs in the world. Whether we are in the Champions League or the Europa League, it is still Liverpool.”
Such allegiance is great to see and should be seen as a real positive by Liverpool fans, in a season that has so far provided little good news. While Reina may not excite like Fernando Torres or Steven Gerrard, he is such a vital cog in this Liverpool side and is one of the best goalkeepers in the world. There is a lot of sorting out to be done at Anfield on and off the pitch this summer, but at least the fans can take comfort in the fact they will have a world-class performer in between the sticks for years to come.