Pepe Reina, Liverpool’s number one between the sticks, wants Champions League Football – that’s understandable. He’s ambitious, he’s motivated and wants to compete at the very top level. I have no doubt that there is some truth to the ‘concern’ that the Papers and the Press have attributed to Reina following what can only be considered Liverpool’s abysmal season.
Though Reina hasn’t made his desire to leave Anfield entirely clear, there have been others who have been willing to do so for him. Take Mihaylov who left Liverpool to join FC Twente just last year. Speaking to Bulgarian radio station Darik Radio, Mihaylov said:
“I know from my agent Pepe Reina wants to go back to Spain… He’s one of the best keepers in the world but his form is not as it should be in a club like Liverpool.”
This has resulted in the Papers linking the Spaniard to Villareal, a La Liga side with a real shot at Champions League football next season. Another motivation is thought to be Reina’s desire to break into the Spanish national team, where he’s currently third choice behind the likes of Real Madrid’s Iker Casillas and Barcelona’s Victor Valdes. A move to Spain could see his performances be placed under the spotlight – something which could reap rewards for Pepe.
My feeling, however, is that Liverpool should do everything they can to keep hold of their man. I struggle to see how Liverpool could replace him without breaking the bank. He’s without doubt one of the best and most consistent keepers in the world. He’s an excellent shot stopper and more importantly still in the modern game, he makes good, calm decisions and isn’t error prone.
The importance of having a good keeper in the Premier League goes without saying. Just look at Arsenal who have struggled for over a half a decade to replace David Seaman and found themselves lacking in trophies as a result. Just look at the panic that surrounded Edwin Van der Sar’s decision to retire – how on earth will United replace a man as capable as that?
I’m sure people will have a list of potential replacements. Perhaps Maarten Stekelenburg, Gianluigi Buffon, Shay Given, Hugo Lloris and so on. But when you already have a player with the quality of Reina on your books, shouldn’t your first priority be to keep him?
I understand that if it gets to a stage whereby Reina actively wants out, wants Champions League football or a return to Spain, that Liverpool should let him go. But before it gets to that stage, Liverpool should do everything they can to keep him happy. He’s passionate, he’s capable and he’s a leader on the pitch – exactly the kind of player Liverpool need if they are going to re-establish themselves in the Premier League.
Read more of Harry’s articles at the excellent This Is Futbol