Over the past seven-and-a-half years there hasn’t been a lot about Liverpool Football Club that can be described as a constant.
Of course, there has been Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher, and you can throw in Daniel Agger for most of that time too, but whilst these stalwarts continue to make their presence felt at the heart of the Reds side―with all three starting in the 5-0 weekend win over Norwich City―they are fighting a losing battle when it comes to maintaining the status quo at Anfield.
The status of Champions League winners, the status of Champions League qualifiers, Rafael Benitez, Tom Hicks, George Gillett, Xabi Alonso, Javier Mascherano, Fernando Torres, Roy Hodgson, Kenny Dalglish, Dirk Kuyt, an awful lot of money—all have exited through the Shankly Gates since the summer of 2005.
Pepe Reina is still there, though.
The Spaniard has been a constant in the Liverpool goal ever since he signed for the then-European champions from Villarreal seven-and-a-half years ago.
He’s seen triumphs in both domestic cup competitions, the fall of disastrous owners and played for four different managers, but Reina’s place in front of Liverpool’s net has always been taken for granted. He played in every one of Liverpool’s Premier League games from the 2007/08 season to the end of 2010/11.
Just recently, though, his star has slipped somewhat.
As Liverpool have struggled so has their goalkeeper, as Reina was suddenly faced with more efforts on his goal during matches and as a result found himself conceding more goals, sometimes due to obvious errors on his part.
Injuries suddenly started to flare up too―with the Norwich game the fifth he has missed in the league this season, as the dual problems of a thigh injury and a broken nose picked up in the loss to Manchester United took hold.
Such things can’t be helped, of course, but they only add to the feeling that Reina―whilst once the impenetrable presence behind the Liverpool defence―is suddenly looking a bit vulnerable. For the first time in seven-and-a-half years, Liverpool are being linked with first-choice goalkeepers.
The names of Jack Butland (Daily Mail), Victor Valdes (Daily Express) and Guillermo Ochoa (Daily Express) are suddenly doing the rounds next to the frequent mentions of Liverpool in the gossip columns. Right now they look more plausible than they would have done at any point over the past three-quarters of a decade.
Reina has been an excellent servant for Liverpool, a welcome safety blanket during a time of uncertainty, but maybe a parting of the ways might eventually benefit both parties.
Valdes could reportedly leave Barcelona in the summer (Daily Mirror) and a move to his former club could just be what Reina desires following a few years of trials, tribulations and toiling at Liverpool.
Such a move couldn’t possibly happen until after this season has ended though, and nor should it be openly welcomed by Liverpool at a time when the club should be clinging on to their few experienced players and not replacing them, but maybe it might just have to happen for both parties to progress.
There should be no parties when Reina does eventually leave Liverpool, though.
The Spaniard has been and still is a fantastic goalkeeper for the Reds, but maybe a change of scenery would suit him at this point of his career. Maybe a change of goalkeeper would suit Brendan Rodgers’s Liverpool at this point of their development too.
Of course any new Liverpool goalkeeper would have to be as comfortable with the ball at his feet as Reina is―and ironically Valdes is too―but what has to be clear is that any new stopper would also have to show Reina’s passion, desire and love for the club in order to be as revered by fans as the Spaniard is.
Hopefully he stays at Liverpool for years to come and helps inspire them to the heights they were at when he joined―for there would be few European champions more deserving―but for now Reina takes his place as Liverpool’s last line of defence, seeking to help the club improve and thrive.
Just as he constantly has done for the past seven-and-a-half years.
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