As much as Brendan Rodgers wants to suggest that Pepe Reina will remain at Anfield this summer, a split would be a mutually beneficial for both club and player.
With Barcelona keeper Victor Valdes expected to leave the Camp Nou after announcing that he won’t be signing a new contract, many believe Reina will be Tito Vilanova’s successor between the posts. Rodgers scuppered the reports, saying, “I think a lot of the stuff this year has just been based on the speculation that Valdes is going.” The Liverpool manager went on to add, “I am counting on him for next season, yes. He’s never been unsettled and our relationship is very strong.”
If you’re a bit unconvinced by Rodgers’ words, you’re not alone. And with good reason – although Reina’s form has improved of late, he’s spent the last year and a half in an undeniable funk.
This season alone Reina has made a number of critical errors that have cost Liverpool valuable points. The mistakes have left Reina’s confidence in shreds. The Spaniard, who was once among the top netminders in the Premier League, now appears to be mentally tuned-out, not to mention uncertain on the ball and aerially insecure. Reina’s form has turned so sour that his starting spot was nearly threatened by Liverpool’s lanky backup, Brad Jones. The Aussie keeper is anything but self-assured between the sticks but even his form has been strong enough to be rewarded with a new contract.
Perhaps a return to Barcelona, the club where Reina spent his youth, is exactly what the 30 year old needs to reinvigorate his game. Reina’s father has already come out (always a good sign) and backed his son’s return to Catalonia while rumors continue to fly that Liverpool are interested in Swansea City’s Michel Vorm and Ajaccio’s Guillermo Ochoa.
Besides the youth connection to Reina, it’s hard to see why Barcelona would want to sign the Liverpool keeper. For years the only blemish in the Blaugrana’s Starting XI has been Valdes, a netminder who is rarely tested and who’s mistakes are frequently covered by the brilliant golazos of Lionel Messi & Co.
Few will disagree that Reina has more talent than Valdes. But why would one of the biggest clubs in the world risk buying a keeper who has spent the last year and a half toiling in mediocrity? Surely there are a number of other goalkeeping options – including Hamburg’s Rene Adler, Roma’s Maarten Steklenburg and Galatasaray’s Fernando Muslera – who could provide greater security than at a similar price.
Regardless of Barcelona’s motives or ability to assess goalkeeping talent, if the Spanish giants submit a reasonable bid to Liverpool for Reina both player and club should go for it. Reina would have the opportunity to regain his lost form and compete for Champions League and La Liga titles with his boy-hood club while the Reds can bring in a more focused, dependable keeper who’s less likely to saddle the club with costly errors.