Tying up Reina to deal has to be Rafa’s No.1 priority

Liverpool’s misfortunes have been well documented this season. A dreadful slump in form saw the club dumped out of the group stage of the Champions League, an embarrassing loss to Reading in the third round of the FA Cup followed and losses to clubs like Portsmouth, Sunderland and Fulham effectively ended their quest for Premier League glory. Serious weaknesses in the team were exposed, with a lack of depth up front and a £20 million Italian spending more time on the treatment table than on the pitch. In January, a host of strikers were linked with a move to Anfield; Kenwyne Jones, Milan Jovanovic and Mohamed Zidan were rumoured to be on Rafael Benitez’s shopping list.

But there is one move that Rafa must make to at least have a chance of winning some silverware next season: and that’s keeping Pepe Reina at Anfield.

The Spanish international, 27, has two and a half years left on the extension he signed in 2007, but in keeping with club policy not to allow key players to enter the final two years of their contracts, Reina is in line for a new contract. Key players like Steven Gerrard, Fernando Torres and Yossi Benayoun have already inked new deals at Anfield and the keeper is keen to stay in Merseyside.

Speaking to the Telegraph, Reina said:

“My aim is to get a new contract in the future and I want to be here for many years. Apparently the club wants the same.

“It’s already my fifth season here and that says it all, really. One of my daughters is a Scouser.”

Reina has proved to be an excellent acquisition since joining from Villarreal for £6 million in 2005; he has eclipsed both Ray Clemence and Bruce Grobbelaar’s record of clean sheets for Liverpool (79 in his first 150 league games compared to 69 for both predecessors), and has won three Barclays Golden Glove awards in his time on Merseyside. Despite Liverpool’s struggles this season, Reina has kept ten clean sheets in the Premiership this season, and has only conceded one goal in the league since Boxing Day; keeping clean sheets in wins against the likes of Spurs, Aston Villa and Everton, which has seen Liverpool surge up the table and occupy fourth place in the Premiership.

Reina is an integral part of Liverpool’s success and Benitez must move heaven and earth to keep his compatriot at Anfield. An excellent shot-stopper and distributor of the ball, Reina’s ability to set up goals with his kicks are invaluable to Liverpool, and are reminiscent to Peter Schmeichel’s ability to throw great distances when he was at United in the 90’s. Arguably the best keeper in the Premiership, Benitez needs to convince squabbling owners Hicks and Gillett to dust the cobwebs off their wallets and pay the money to keep Reina at Anfield.

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