This is something that I knew I'd have to write eventually. In Rafa's final year coaching, there was a December game at home against Portsmouth where Reina got beat with a shot at a very hard angle to cap off a crushing 2-0 loss. That play, although not nearly as absurd as Aguero's equalizer, forever cast doubt upon Pepe in my eyes. The fact that his poor positioning cost the team a chance at salvaging a point made me wonder whether he was truly an elite keeper.
I have a policy regarding goalkeepers which is much aligned with how the court system is supposed to work. Innocent until proven guilty. A goalie is innocent until he gives up a questionable goal. No player is totally innocent because questionable goals are allowed by even the best of the best. However, the majority of these goals come at times in the game where a conceded goal isn't totally backbreaking, and these are usually offset by equally brilliant saves. So in my book, a solid to excellent goalkeeper is the equivalent of a jaywalker.
Pepe Reina used to be a just an occasional jaywalker to me. Every time he'd get burned, he could be counted on to come back with four more world class saves. Entering the 2009-10 season, Reina seemed to be on top of the goalkeeping world, with Liverpool themselves sniffing at the top of the footballing world. After an early season 3-1 collapse against Villa, neither have gotten close to those positions since.
My recognition of Pepe's downhill slope into more serious crimes against my sanity began on that cold winter afternoon at Anfield against Portsmouth. For awhile after that incident, his problems would pop up just enough to keep me worried, but considering the tattered state of other areas at the club, not yet enraged. Then, all of the sudden, the end of last year happened. In the time span after RVP's 90th minute heart-squasher knocked us out of contention for fourth place, Reina literally fell apart. I think that's when a lot of you guys started mentioning his slowed reaction time and diminishing positioning on this blog. It wasn't even necessarily that he was conceding howlers. It was that he couldn't stop anything. You come to expect a goalie of his supposed caliber to bail you out of a game once in awhile, but that never happened as last year got worse and worse.
This season has admittedly been a bit of a weird one for Pepe, with injuries keeping him in and out of the lineup. Perhaps that has caused him to further lose his touch. The struggles culminated into a fiery inferno on Sunday. And now the internet is filled with the shout of an immediate sale over the summer. I'm not one of those people. I never like to label a player that isn't deadwood as someone to be "immediately sold". This is mainly because that philosophy removes any value that a player has left.
It would be wise to test out the market and see if anyone bites for a considerable lump of cash. Barcelona has appeared interested, although that matching seems to be a stretch. The thing is, even semi-competent goalies are quite the commodity and hard to come by. I still see Reina as at least semi-competent. So teams are bound to come knocking on the door.
But the thing is, because decent goalies are so hard to find, is it wise to sell Reina? That's something we all ought to think long and hard about in the coming months. All I know is that last Sunday, Pepe committed the footballing crime equivalent of burning down my house while I was out for dinner.
That's all I've got to say. Now lets hear your opinions.