Pepe Reina’s announcement that he has no plans to leave Anfield is the best news Liverpool fans have had since they got £5 million for Emile Heskey back in 2004. We’ll probably never know if the rumours of departure were genuine or just newspapers filling space until another Newcastle player assaulted someone [they didn’t have to wait long], but for several weeks it looked plausible.
Talk of Fernando Torres not being the biggest fan of Roy Hodgson didn’t help matters. The star striker didn’t seem happy and that was reflected in some indifferent displays. The word coming out of Anfield has always been that there’s always been a great camaraderie amongst Liverpool’s Spanish contingent and Reina’s unhappiness may have stemmed from the issues his compatriot was having. It’s amazing what a few goals can do, because the alleged frosty relationship seems to have thawed. It would be a surprise if a man as traveled and thoughtful as Hodgson was doing something to upset his foreign players, but we’re not privy to what happens on the training ground so there was always the potential that something was amiss behind the scenes.
Losing Reina would be more damaging to Liverpool than losing Gerrard or Torres. It’s a bold statement, but quite simply there are only a handful of goalkeepers capable of replacing him and most of them would not be interested in a move to Liverpool. Reina is world class, one of the best in the world. The same can be said of Gerrard and Torres, but if they were to move on, there are several candidates who could come in and possibly compensate for their absence. It may necessitate a change of style and tactics, but the effect would not be catastrophic, particularly in view of the transfer fee involved. Admittedly Liverpool’s 1st choice isn’t having his best season at the club. He has made a few mistakes, but a lot of that can be explained by the uncertainty in front of him. Even allowing for his errors, he still brings a net gain to the club. Against Chelsea he was far from flawless, but kept the champions at bay when the were threatening a comeback. That’s the hallmark of Reina – good performances in general and frequent moments of brilliance.
Agility, strong command of his area, good distribution and still only 28 – Reina could potentially be Liverpool’s goalkeeper for most of the next decade. The common wisdom is you build from the back and if Liverpool want to start moving upwards, they need to hang on to this foundation stone.