Pepe Reina Wrong to Blame Liverpool for Loan Transfer Move to Napoli

Karl Matchett@@karlmatchettFeatured ColumnistJuly 30, 2013

Perhaps the highest profile outgoing transfer of the summer at Anfield was completed on Monday, as goalkeeper Pepe Reina left on a season-long loan to Italian Serie A side Napoli.

After 395 games as Liverpool's No. 1, the Spanish World Cup winner has been usurped between the posts by the signing of Belgian Simon Mignolet, and with no permanent deals on the table, the club confirmed he would be heading out on a temporary deal for the 2013-14 season.

That wasn't the end of it for Reina, though, whose subsequent words may have struck a chord with his fans, but are not entirely justified.


Pepe's Adios

In a no doubt honest and open speech to the club's fans, Reina indicated via his website how he would miss the fans and the team, recalled his finest moment and also spoke about his regret of the manner of his departure.

I am disappointed that I will not be part of that and although it was not my decision to leave I will accept it just like I have always accepted any decision that Liverpool have taken for me.

But if I have one regret, it is the way that I am leaving. It is only natural that I would be disappointed that the Liverpool management agreed to loan me to Napoli without telling me first, I thought that I deserved better than that even though I understand that difficult decisions have to be taken in football.

A lot has been made about me informing the club that if an offer came in from Barcelona that I would have liked them to consider it. But I had also spoken to the club about the possibility of extending my contract if the offer was not made. I told the manager that I wanted to play for Liverpool and that Barcelona would only become an option for me if the opportunity arrived, like the rumours said it would, as it would be a chance for me to go back home. When it didn’t come I was happy to fight for my place so I was surprised that Liverpool decided it was in the club´s interests to send me to Napoli instead.

Reina's full open letter can be found on his site, but this portion in particular will cause some fans to perhaps see the wrong side of a two-way argument.


Why Reina isn't Right

Reina to Barcelona seems to be about the worst-kept secret in the Premier League, despite its apparent delay for 12 months. With Victor Valdes opting to see out the last 12 months of his contract at the Camp Nou, Barcelona had no need to sign a new stopper, and so they will delay their bid for their former youngster by a year.

Reina's words basically confirm that both player and club knew about the interest from La Liga and were prepared to act on it.

If Barca came calling, Pepe wanted to go home.

And that's fine. It's understandable, romantic, poetic in a full-circle way and certainly fair, given both clubs' respective abilities to challenge for trophies right now.

But that's where Reina's options must narrow and those of the club, Liverpool, must open up.

"But I had also spoken to the club about the possibility of extending my contract if the offer was not made."

Unfortunately, this could never be an option for Pepe. Despite his years of service, his wonderful performances down the years and his club records achieved, Liverpool could in no way be expected to hang around and wait and see if the Catalan side decided they wanted Reina or not.

Once Pepe's thoughts were clear, Brendan Rodgers and his scouting staff had to act—find a goalkeeper capable of replacing the man who had played close to 400 games for the Reds, and ensure he's available and attainable this summer.

Simon Mignolet became that man, and Liverpool signed him for £9 million in the early days of the summer transfer window.

The goalkeeper's position was once again secured for the long term at Anfield, and Liverpool had acted appropriately and according to the situation they found themselves in. That this has come to the detriment and the disappointment of Pepe Reina is, unfortunately, just too bad.

Reina has been a great stopper for the club, and no supporter would wish him ill, but that cannot be the justification for hanging around and waiting to see if someone nabbed their No. 1 and then rushing to try and secure a replacement in the closing weeks of the window. Liverpool had to look after their own, and they did.

As for the new contract offer, as much as supporters have loved Pepe Reina, there will not be a majority who would indicate his form over the past three seasons have warranted a new deal to be put forward. Sure, he improved over the second half of last term, but mistakes and inconsistencies continued to dog his play at times, and he remains a distance from his mercurial, unbeatable best of four or five years ago.


One Year from Today

Mignolet has not had much to deal with so far as a Liverpool goalkeeper. The opposition the Reds have faced in preseason have been of substandard quality, with all due respect, and he will have far sterner tests to come in August.

That said, it's certainly a case of so far, so good with the Belgian helping Liverpool to four clean sheets so far, and with him displaying a range of qualities which will stand him in good stead once the season starts, including some dominant aerial shows and plenty of organisation.

What it means is that fans can be confident they have a goalkeeper in place who looks capable of stepping up a level—though, of course, few judgements should be made off the back of a preseason campaign.

Reina, meanwhile, will join up once more with manager Rafael Benitez and goalkeeper coach Xavi Valero at Napoli. He'll be playing Champions League football, challenging for the Serie A title—Napoli finished second last season—and starting matches regularly, as opposed to sitting on the Liverpool bench.

That will, at the very least, not see his market value sit any lower, and once Valdes ends his term at Barcelona next season, there is every likelihood that they will, finally, come calling for Pepe.

And then, he'll head off without a moment's thought.

Reina might love the club, but he loves his career and the thought of playing for Barcelona just that little bit more. Again, that's perfectly fine.

But he can't expect the club to not act in exactly the same way; be glad they've got Pepe, but be even more glad they've safeguarded the future already.

And Liverpool supporters should be viewing the transfers in exactly the same way too.



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