There were times during the eight seasons Pepe Reina played for Liverpool that he looked like the best goalkeeper in the Premier League. That wasn’t the case in recent seasons, and it was quite clear that no matter what, he wasn’t going to play again under Brendan Rodgers. It’s slightly weird to see him leave the club to Bayern Munich with no one actually feeling sorry to see him go.
Soon to be 32, Reina isn’t old in goalkeeping terms. He’s been part of all the Spain squads that won something from 2008 to 2012, usually there to lift the spirits and to be in charge of celebrations, leaving the actual playing to Iker Casillas. Despite some impressive lineage and 33 caps for the national team, Reina was never ‘World Class’ good, or at least not for a very long time.
When Brendan Rodgers arrived at Anfield, he made some decisions right away about who he wants to play. Andy Carroll was probably the first thing he made up his mind about, but Renia surely didn’t come far behind. The jab Reina gave the manager when he left to Napoli through the letter to the fans made it quite clear that after 394 appearances with the club and winning the league’s Golden Glove award three times, he won’t be playing another match as a Liverpool man.
What was the harm of keeping him as a quality backup to Simon Mignolet who had a mixed first season at Anfield? Some goalkeepers can’t be pushed back in the hierarchy. Reina preferred being a backup under Pep Guardiola at Bayern than suddenly becoming a sub for Liverpool, a team he was a key part of for nearly a decade, although his form through the last three seasons for the team were certainly sub part compared to the expectations and what he has shown in the past.
Maybe it wasn’t just his fault. There was a clear dwindling in quality when it came to defense right after the 2008-2009 season. Reina was never an incredible shot stopper. He’s always been a solid goalkeeper. Good at rushing out, excellent strength and accuracy with his hands and feet. But he’s not Mignolet, never was, at least when it comes to his shot stopping ability. When the defense in front of you isn’t as it was before, not having that attribute in abundance becomes costly for a team that isn’t set out to spend the rest of eternity in the middle of the table.
Renia won only one substantial title with Liverpool, the 2006 FA Cup. He helped out when they made it to the Champions League final in 2007 and was fantastic in the 2008-2009 season, the closest Liverpool have gotten to the title until last season, when Reina was already playing under Benitez but for Napoli. A good goalkeeper, but never a great one, who leaves as someone that no one really wants anymore.