Once upon a time, I admired and adored Pepe Reina like every other Liverpool fan. Back under Rafa, when the Spanish goalie was in the form of his life and one of the top goalkeepers in the world, I knew we had a world class player on our hands. With every year that he remained in between the sticks, I grew more attached.
Even when his form started to dip under Hodgson with the loss of his previous goalkeeping coach, I was adamant that he would pick himself up and go on to become the next Liverpool captain when Gerrard eventually retired (I was unaware of the quotes he’d given stating his reluctance to rule out a move to Manchester United), especially as his form improved in Rodgers’ inaugural campaign.
Then at the end of the season, word seeped out of Melwood that come the final game at Anfield, Pepe had moved out all his things, said goodbye to the staff at Melwood and the stadium and prepared himself for his dream move away to Barcelona, his boyhood club.
The spell broke. I wasn’t mad though; Reina had never returned to his peak and we had signed a good young keeper in the form of Simon Mignolet. It was a shame that Pepe would never go on to wear the captain’s armband permanently, but such is life. I wished him the best and thought that was that.
Of course, Reina eventually ended up on loan at Napoli, reunited with Rafa. I thought his letter to the fans was a bit too soon, but I understood his reasoning and appreciated the sentiment. Despite Rodgers’ feelings on the subject (on which he has a point), it seemed clear that Reina loved the fans and the club and simply wanted to express his gratitude.
Which is why his words recently have confused me. Of course they come from his love for the club and he has every right to keep his options open, but directly contradicting what Rodgers has been saying on his future by claiming he could see out the final two years of his contract creates a narrative that the club don’t need to be dealing with right now in the middle of a title challenge.
It also creates a difficult situation for Mignolet, who has looked nervous recently after an encouraging start as the new No. 1. We don’t need the big Belgian distracted by wondering about what will happen once the previous fans’ favourite returns. Reina’s other comments about the team’s attacking style of play and tendency to concede goals leave a lot open to interpretation, but it is something that should never have been mentioned in the first place.
Reina clearly loves Liverpool, but I don’t think he realises how selfish his comments are. Not only are they controversial, but they’re inappropriately timed. The club needs to be focused entirely on the remaining league games. They shouldn’t have to worry about getting burnt by the words of a spurned star.