Liverpool have had but one first choice goalkeeper since winning the UEFA Champions League back in 2005: Spanish stopper Pepe Reina who arrived in the aftermath of the heroics of former No. 1 Jerzy Dudek.
Since then, Reina has won both domestic cups for Liverpool, has captained the side, has played in a Champions League final, won multiple trophies as a squad player with his national team, broken records for the club and has played just five shy of 400 matches in the Reds' first team.
And now, eight years after arriving, his time at Anfield appears to be at an end.
Simon Mignolet was confirmed as Liverpool's latest signing by the official site on Tuesday, a 25-year old Belgian international from Sunderland who has cost an estimated £9 million.
With Brendan Rodgers keen to get much of his summer transfer business done early this year, Mignolet is the fourth new arrival at Anfield, despite not even being into July yet. What he has in common with most other signings is, of course, his age being in the accepted norms these days, building for now and for the future.
Already a 12-time senior international for his nation, Mignolet is in a constant battle with Atletico Madrid's on loan stopper Thibaut Courtois to gain and keep his place at that level.
As of right now, when Mignolet has agreed a move to Liverpool, Belgium are one year away from a place at the 2014 World Cup final in Brazil, which they lead their qualification group for. It would be a rare player indeed who would risk his place at the tournament by making a move, playing in such a specialised position, when regular game time was not assured.
Therein lies the first indication that Reina might be on the verge of an Anfield exit.
What about from the club point of view?
The Reds certainly don't have unlimited funds to spend, and there are areas of the team which need rebuilding. The attack has had some attention, but a central defender and a No. 10 still appear to be on the wishlist, while a defensive midfielder is a priority too.
So would Rodgers be open to spending £9 million this summer on beefing up the depth in the goalkeeper's position, merely to have Mignolet on the bench? Perhaps he wants the competition, but it's an awful lot of money.
And if Mignolet is coming in as the preferred starter, that leaves Pepe Reina on the bench—along with his £100,000-per-week wages. Again, not conducive to spending wisely in accordance with improving the quality of the squad.
Financially speaking, this very much looks like a move to replace one first-team goalkeeper with another.
Reina himself is also hugely unlikely to want to be a backup.
He's had to fend off the cheap-and-cheerful challenges of the likes of Diego Cavalieri, Scott Carson, Alexander Doni and most recently Brad Jones, but all of those were far from established as first picks before joining the Reds and were easily left on the bench.
Mignolet is another matter.
He will expect to be playing, so will Reina, and two into that one position don't go.
It's not like in midfield, where an attacking player might be shoe-horned into a right-wing slot to accommodate him; a second-pick goalkeeper will often sit on the bench for 3,420 minutes a season.
And finally, there is Brendan Rodgers to consider. The manager consistently backs all of his players, and Reina is no different, but the fact is that in trying to build his own team at Liverpool, Rodgers needs players he believes in.
Reina made more mistakes last season than every Premier League goalkeeper bar three, with only four goalkeepers conceding more goals directly as a result of their own errors.
28% - Pepe Reina saved only 28% of the clear cut chances he faced in 2012-13, the fourth lowest rate in the PL. Susceptible.— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) June 17, 2013
43% - Simon Mignolet saved 43% of the clear cut chances he faced, the 10th best rate in the PL in 2012-13. Target.— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) June 17, 2013
Reina "%Shots on Target Inside Box Saved" last 2 yrs: Just 79 saves from 143 shots (55.2%) | 2011/12 43/76, 2012/13 36/67 (PL Average 61%)— Dan Kennett (@DanKennett) June 15, 2013
There is a high probability that, privately, Rodgers had already decided he needed another goalkeeper to take the team forward in the long term, replacing Reina's longevity, influence at the club, dressing room presence and everything that comes along with it, with somebody who is quite simply more reliable on the pitch than the Spaniard has become.
Is Simon Mignolet the right goalkeeper to replace Pepe Reina?
This is a decision which Brendan Rodgers' tenure at the club could easily hinge on, over the mid-to long-term.
But as for Pepe Reina, it looks as though his time as the established goalkeeper of Liverpool Football Club is coming to an end, sooner rather than later.
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