Plenty of people have a comfortable pair of slippers―something that they know will always be there no matter how tough the day and how difficult the situation.
These slippers make you feel completely at home whatever the setting and almost never let you down.
Until the weekend, Liverpool’s comfortable pair of slippers was surely Jamie Carragher.
The long-serving defender was turned to whenever his club needed him, such as this January when manager Brendan Rodgers bemoaned the lack of characters in his team and brought the club’s vice-captain back for a home fixture against Norwich City. The Reds beat the Canaries 5-0, and Carragher was only on a losing Premier League side on one occasion for the rest of the season.
Rodgers knew that Carragher wouldn’t let him down, but now he’s retired the Reds boss will need to rely on someone else.
The logical choice would surely be the next longest-serving player after Carragher, Steven Gerrard, but there is nothing about the skipper that can be described as "comfortable." He’ll continue to buzz around the pitch and not let anybody down because that’s simply what he does best. He can’t be described as an old pair of slippers.
But then who can?
Goalkeeper Pepe Reina may have had his moments where he has looked far from comfortable over the past couple of seasons, but he can still be relied upon to be a crucial part of Liverpool’s plans as and when he’s needed.
There might still be swirling transfer rumours that centre on the Spanish international’s future at the club he’s called his home for the past eight years―with the most recent of those rumours linking Reina with a return to his former club Barcelona, as reported by the Daily Mirror―but Liverpool really should be doing all they can to keep hold of a player who has served them with such distinction throughout his career in England.
That career began in 2005, when Rafael Benitez plucked Reina from Villarreal and brought him to the then-European champions.
He’s deserved to win far more than just an FA Cup and a League Cup between then and now, but for years Reina was a solid, dependable last line of defence who seemed almost superhuman at times. He played in every single one of Liverpool’s Premier League games in 2007/08 and 2010/11.
Just recently, though, that superhuman stance has softened somewhat with niggling injuries and losses of form blighting his performances and ensuring that the campaign just gone saw him play the least amount of matches he’s ever managed for the Reds in a season: 39 in all competitions.
You can read into that what you want, but Reina is still an important part of Liverpool’s present and future. He doesn’t turn 31 until the opening weeks of next season, whilst he still has three years remaining on the extremely long-term contract he signed with the Reds in 2008.
He’s still one of the best goalkeepers in the business too, and after demonstrating an upturn in form in the closing months of the 2012/13 season, the Reds would surely be foolish to get rid of a player who seems at home bringing his young family up on Merseyside.
As with all foreign players it is highly likely that he’ll return to his homeland one day, but with goalkeepers able to go on playing for many years, Liverpool and Rodgers should be determined to keep him around for at least the foreseeable future.
After becoming as trusted and comfortable as an old pair of slippers Reina surely isn’t in the mood to be replaced, and Liverpool shouldn’t be looking to replace him either.
There’s life in the old favourite yet, and next season he can prove that.