Premier League 2011/12 GK Preview: Liverpool

Liverpool

Pepe Reina

1st Team Squad Goalkeeper: Pepe Reina, Brad Jones, Doni

Overview: Possibly more than signing Andy Carroll, Luis Suarez, Stuart Downing or Jordan Henderson, the one piece of transfer business capable of firing Liverpool back into the Premier League’s elite was hanging on to Pepe Reina. As unpalatable as it may have been to supporters, there was substance to the rumours linking him with Man Utd. Fergie and goalkeeping coach, Eric Steele are known fans and combined with Reina’s notoriously competitive ambition, the prospect of winning trophies up the East Lancashire Road must have been tempting. The upturn under Kenny Dalglish in the second half of the season convinced to stay, but the progress will need to continue for it to be a long-term arrangement. Last season wasn’t perfect for Reina, but he made some crucial saves in tight games that earned points and in turn saved the Reds from even greater struggles. Maintaining his services was vital for Liverpool because he’s virtually irreplaceable. Even in a hypothetical transfer market in which meeting the asking price was the only barrier to signing a player, there are only a handful of goalkeepers comparable in terms of ability and in the more realistic world of overblown transfer prices and personal preferences, they likely to be beyond the budgets and negotiating skills of even New England Sports Ventures. Reina is irreplaceable and Liverpool would be well advised to ensure he doesn’t need replacing until such a time when his Premier League career comes to its natural conclusion.

With Brad Jones likely to seek first team football elsewhere, Liverpool have brought in Doni from Roma as cover. The former Brazilian number 1 is a talented and experienced keeper, but his motivation has to be questioned. Does he has the misguided self-belief to think he can relegate Reina to the subs bench? If so, good as it will keep everyone on their toes or – more likely – is he coming for a hefty paycheque in the knowledge he won’t have to work especially hard for it? In recent seasons, he’s had several injuries which have severely curtailed his playing time and he may have one eye on feathering his nest before the days of him earning big money come to and end. If he’s motivated and focused, he’s an excellent option to have in reserve, but if he loses heart or interest, his contribution to the squad will be less constructive. He’s capable, but there’s a leap of faith required to conclude he’s sufficiently motivated.

Worst case scenario: Such has been Reina’s consistency over the years, it’s hard to imagine a sudden and dramatic downturn in form. He may make a couple of mistakes over the course of a season, but he’ll earn his side far more than he’ll give away. The fear is a long-term injury that would keep him sidelined for a couple of months. In that case Liverpool will be relying heavily on Doni and that’s not guaranteed to be a success.

Most likely outcome: Reina will perform to a high level – with the infrequent blips – and aside from the occasional outing in the cup competitions, Doni will see little game time.

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