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Liverpool Transfer News: Atletico Line Up Pepe Reina to Replace Thibaut Courtois

NAPLES, ITALY - MARCH 23:  Pepe Reina of Napoli in action during the Serie A match between SSC Napoli and ACF Fiorentina at Stadio San Paolo on March 23, 2014 in Naples, Italy.  (Photo by Giuseppe Bellini/Getty Images)
Giuseppe Bellini/Getty Images
Nick AkermanFeatured ColumnistApril 17, 2014

Pepe Reina is being lined up to replace Thibaut Courtois as Atletico Madrid's No.1 goalkeeper, should Diego Simeone's side lose their on-loan stopper to Chelsea next season.

Courtois is widely expected to be recalled by his parent club after three years with the Rojiblancos, who stand on the brink of ending an era of Real Madrid and Barcelona dominance in La Liga.

Reina, who is no longer needed as cover for Simon Mignolet at Liverpool, is being touted as the best choice to replace Courtois, reported by Paul Brown of the Daily Star:

Reina is currently on loan at Napoli, who have first option on signing him permanently in an agreement which expires on May 1.

But the 31-year-old wants to return to Spain for family reasons and his agent has already held talks with Atletico about a move to Madrid.

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 01:  Goalkeeper Pepe Reina of Napoli looks on during UEFA Champions League Group F match between Arsenal FC and SSC Napoli at Emirates Stadium on October 1, 2013 in London, England.  (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)
Paul Gilham/Getty Images

The likelihood of this move is galvanised due to Reina's honest assessment that he wishes to leave Anfield permanently. Barcelona are thought to be the 31-year-old's preferred destination, but this seems extremely unlikely considering the recently imposed transfer ban placed on the club, per FIFA.com.

"I would love to return to Barcelona. To play at Barca is a privilege, but I imagine that my name is on a list with others" said Reina, reported by Paul Gorst of the Mirror. "Barca is a top club and Victor Valdes' departure will have alerted other candidates so a return will be very difficult."

Should Barca's transfer ban be lifted, Reina's potential Camp Nou return seems unlikely after the club agreed a deal to sign Borussia Monchengladbach youngster Marc-Andre ter Stegen, per Pilar Suarez of Goal.com.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 28:  Pepe Reina of Liverpool blocks the shot of Nikola Kalinic of Blackburn Rovers during the Barclays Premier League match between Liverpool and Blackburn Rovers at Anfield on February 28, 2010 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Even so, Reina appears to have written his own exit note at Liverpool. Rodgers dismissed chances of his return at the end of February after it became clear Reina wrote a "goodbye letter for Liverpool fans," reported by Mike Whalley of ESPN FC.

"I was surprised at the letter," said Rodgers. "When you are a loan player, I would expect that he should come back, but obviously Pepe made it very clear when he went to Napoli that he was looking to move."

Atletico would certainly be an excellent fit for the Madrid-born Spaniard. Reina spent time at Barcelona in the early stages of his career and significantly developed his game at Villarreal, before moving to Liverpool in 2005.

He is an experienced winner—with trophies including the FA Cup, UEFA Super Cup and Intertoto Cup adding to his nation's recent haul—and plays football with the confident flamboyance that has come to define Atletico's season.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - MARCH 18:  Pepe Reina of Liverpool celebrates at the end of the UEFA Europa League Round of 16, second leg match at Anfield on March 18, 2010 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Simeone has drilled his side to show resiliency and flair, making Atletico extremely difficult to beat. Although Courtois' powerful presence between the sticks will be missed, Reina has the self-confidence to slot straight into a leadership role.

His father, Miguel Reina, is also a legend at the club after helping Atletico to the La Liga title in 1976-77. Pepe's appearance is sure to be welcomed and could underline how the league leaders have no problem replacing talent with proven quality.

Reina would be a smart addition to an Atletico squad that is bursting with untapped potential. Although Simeone's side looks set to capture glory this season, Reina appears to have an excellent shot at joining a team in ascendancy, much like the one he left behind on Merseyside.

 

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