Written by James McManus for FootballFancast.com: There appears to be growing cause for concern around Anfield that Pepe Reina may well be the latest star name to leave the club, but is the Spanish goalkeeper irreplaceable?
Well first and foremost, to trot out the tired old cliché and get it out in the open as quickly as possible – ‘no player is bigger than the club’. Of course, if the protracted contract saga involving Wayne Rooney earlier on in this season taught us anything, it was that things are not always as clear cut as this and that sometimes the club has to bend to the player’s will and not the other way around.
Liverpool have suffered over recent seasons with the departures of Xabi Alonso, Javier Mascherano and Fernando Torres all hitting the club hard. To lose Reina though would remove the last bastion of the Rafa Benitez era while simultaneously sounding the death knell to any progress the club may hope to achieve in the near future.
Liverpool are not a club that is in free-fall as such, nor are they a club on the decline; estimations of their demise have been and will continue to be greatly exaggerated in some quarters, but it is clear that they are going through a transitional phase both off and on the pitch, one that will require the patience of both the players and the fans.
Fernando Torres, since his departure, has come out with various diatribes about the chaotic state behind the scenes at Anfield that have proved to be a little too close to the bone for some Liverpool fans. His departure was certainly acrimonious in its nature but Torres has at least been refreshingly honest in his appraisal of the situation describing the reasons for his departure stating:
“In the summer in which Xabi Alonso left, I started to wonder (about leaving). When reinforcements didn’t arrive, I started to wonder if Liverpool were the club it’s history suggests, or if it was in fact a selling club. What other teams could I have gone to? I couldn’t go to Man Utd out of respect for Liverpool. Or Real Madrid because of my past. I don’t think Barcelona needed anyone. I didn’t like the idea of Italy. Chelsea were the only club left, the only option”, he then goes onto add that “the institution was in chaos with the sale. There was all this talk of possible projects. In many ways it reminded me of Atletico Madrid – a great history, many ideas but without money. It needed time. I don’t have that.”
If that last sentence doesn’t send shivers down the most hardened of Liverpool fan’s spines then nothing will. It is clear that NESV are there for the long-haul and that there will be money made for investment in the playing staff should it be asked, but a footballer’s career is only so long and amongst the passion and demand for loyalty from its fans, we can often forget that to most players, this is a career and one in which they will look to get the most out of while they still can. In no other profession is loyalty demanded as readily as it is with footballers.
Pepe Reina has been a loyal and committed player to the club since his arrival in 2005 for £6m from Villarreal, yet the sounds emanating from the Spaniard’s mouth at the moment are most worrying. Reina stated just last week: “It’s not about being patient, it is about the club winning and I want to be competitive. All I can do is train hard and do my best, but who knows what is going to happen here?” Reina’s non-committal stance sounds extremely ominous and it is thought he is waiting to decide on his future in the summer upon learning the future direction of the club and the new owner’s plans for it.
Former Liverpool player Alan Kennedy came out late last week and said that “I’d be amazed if Kenny (Dalglish) thought it would be a good idea to cash in on him (Reina) like he did with Torres, because for me, Pepe is irreplaceable” before rather correctly adding in my view that “any replacement is going to be a step down.”
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