When Brendan Rodgers decided that Pepe Reina’s future lay elsewhere, one has to imagine that his decision was not made with 100% assuredness.
Reina, now on his way to Napoli, has been a cornerstone of today’s Liverpool, with his status at Anfield perhaps only surpassed by Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher.
His imperious record and vast experience is unmatched by most of Rodgers’ current squad, and most other Premier League goalkeepers.
Indeed, to say that Simon Mignolet has big gloves to fill could well be classed an understatement.
That’s not to suggest he isn’t capable of the task. The Belgian has steadily proved himself over the last three campaigns at Sunderland and for many was one of the best goalkeepers in England last season.
It is no secret though, that players of quality can end up struggling when they find themselves wearing a shirt like that of Liverpool’s, steeped in such esteemed history.
Mignolet has developed markedly with Sunderland, but previous to his time on Tyneside, the 25-year-old was plying his trade in the first and second divisions of Belgium.
Compare that to where Reina joined Liverpool from. Although only 22 at the time, the shot stopper had already experienced top European football with Barcelona and Villarreal.
Experience is not the only doubt that the red half of Merseyside might have about Rodgers’ decision however.
For sheer talent, does Mignolet represent a better option than Reina?
Napoli’s incoming keeper has kept Liverpool 134 clean sheets in the Premier League. That stat speaks for itself.
To the contrary, Mignolet has managed 29 clean sheets, which actually is rather impressive considering last season was the first time he kept goal for the entire duration of the league.
Those stats of course do not tell the whole story, but nevertheless give a small insight into the ability of both.
A clearer representation for some will be the praises that have been sung about each.
It seems unnecessary to pull up a quote about Reina. Everyone is aware of the plaudits he has received through his career, regularly thought of as one of the best keepers in Europe and by many a Liverpool fan as the best in their history.
As for Mignolet, those who have worked closest with him have never doubted his quality.
Just last year, Martin O’Neill exclaimed: “When I look at Joe Hart I see an excellent goalkeeper, his performance for Manchester City against Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League was sublime, but Simon is playing just as well.”
Certainly, it would appear on the ability front that Mignolet has all the attributes to be a more than apt replacement for Reina.
Is the change really necessary though?
At 25, Mignolet evidently has the chance to develop yet more, but Reina is 30, which in goalkeeping years, as has been proved by the likes of Brad Friedel and Edwin Van Der Sar in recent times, is becoming a career peak point.
Many will say that the Spaniard has appeared jaded and past his best in recent seasons, with more errors seeming to creep into his game.
Arguably however, a chance for the man from Madrid to settle has been denied in the said period. He had to work with a very deep back line under Roy Hodgson, a line a touch higher under Kenny Dalglish and a much higher one under Rodgers.
The suggestion from the Liverpool boss yesterday though, was that Reina had to go due to his high wages, which are thought to be around £110,000 per week.
“Financially it was something that we needed to look at,” said Rodgers. “That would be the reason [to move Reina] as you wouldn’t move on a top goalkeeper. It (the situation) reared its head over the last couple of months and I had to prepare by bringing in another keeper.”
To suggest Reina was sent on his way due to his wages could be taken as an indicator of how Rodgers rates Mignolet.
If finances are a little insecure at Anfield, then surely he would not, just over a year into his tenure, shell out in the region of £9million for a replacement?
Equally though, the fact that Reina is to join Napoli on a season-long loan could be seen as an example of slight doubt from Rodgers.
Usually these types of deals are with a view to a permanent transfer, bearing in mind the current situation of both clubs.
Napoli though, having sold Edinson Cavani to Paris Saint-Germain for £55million, are clearly not short of money.
Meanwhile, Liverpool could surely have found another suitor for Reina if they wanted to sell.
It all of course depends upon how the situation is read, but from this viewpoint, it could be reckoned that Rodgers is keeping the door open for a Reina return.
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