A while ago, following a season in which Brad Jones had donned the gloves at Anfield for a decent period, I wrote an article suggesting that Pepe Reina’s time at Liverpool may be coming to an end, and that this summer could see the Spaniard leaving Anfield. I did suggest that Swansea’s Dutch goalkeeper Vorm would be the man to usurp Reina, but with Simon Mignolet now captured from Sunderland for a reported £11million, it appears that I got the move right, but the identity of the incoming guy wrong. At the time, I had a bit of 'feedback’ from a few angry Reds fans, saying that Reina’s position was secure and that he would be the number one for the club next season. Liverpool fans have always been fiercely loyal to their players, and that’s a great tribute to them, it seems however that manager Brendan Rodgers may not be so sure.
Competition for places is always healthy of course, but goalkeeper is a fairly unique position. Very few of the top line clubs do not have a defined number one, and when there are frequent changes in this position, inevitably defensive frailty follows. A ‘job-share’ for the gloves between Mignolet and Reina therefore is probably unlikely, and Rodgers will have to choose his number one.
The signing of Mignolet makes him the third costliest goalkeeper in Premier League history, which suggests that he may not be joining the club to sit on the bench. This is especially so, with the World Cup coming along, with Mignolet keen to win out for the position between the sticks for Belgium against Chelsea’s on loan goalkeeper Thibault Cortios, currently building a big reputation at Atletico Madrid. In support of Liverpool fans, I have to say that the position appears to be a bit harsh on Reina, as during his eight year spell with the club he has been solid always, and outstanding often.
At 30 years of age, still young for a ‘keeper, Reina has many years in front of him, and it’s questionable as to whether he’ll want to spend them sitting on the bench if Mignolet is going to get the nod as first choice. Much as with his rival, Reina also has World Cup selection aspirations, and the prerequisite for almost any player in that situation is to play regularly. This may not happen at Liverpool, and could therefore compel Reina to consider alternative options.
I’ve seen talk that Rodgers claims to have told Reina of his plans to “add competition to the goalkeeping position” over dinner towards the end of last season. I’m thinking that the Spaniard’s digestion may not have been helped by the news.