In his new autobiography, Pepe Reina has lifted the lid on his time at Liverpool. But amid revelations of dressing room bust-ups, broken-down transfers and disillusionment at the ownership of Hicks and Gillett, it is important not to lose sight of the facts. Reina is under contract with Liverpool until 2016, he loves the club, and he is absolutely crucial to its success.
When Rafael Benitez brought Reina to Liverpool from Spanish side Villarreal for £6m in 2005, he hailed him as "the best goalkeeper in Spain". Real Madrid's Iker Casillas may dispute that claim, but since his arrival at Anfield, there is no doubt that Reina has developed into one of the world's best.
Reina is from Madrid, but like so many top Spanish players, he is a product of Barcelona's famed La Masia youth academy. His father, Miguel, also a goalkeeper, played for Barcelona and Atletico Madrid during the 60s and 70s. A young Pepe Reina followed his father's footsteps when he made his La Liga debut for Barca during the 2000-2001 season, but moved to Villarreal the following year in search of first team football. It wasn't long before he caught Benitez's eye.
A Liverpool legend in the making, Reina, now 29, proved an instant success at Anfield, deposing Jerzy Dudek as first choice in a record-breaking debut season. Between October and December of 2005, Reina broke Liverpool's club record with an incredible 11 consecutive clean-sheets. In his first season at Anfield, he kept a total of 20 Premier League clean sheets, and was awarded the Golden Glove. Reina was instrumental in Liverpool's 2006 FA Cup triumph too, living up to his reputation as a penalty-saving specialist with three saves from four West Ham penalties in the shoot-out.
Indeed, Reina had already proved he was no slouch when it came to saving penalties. In his final season at Villarreal, he had saved seven out of nine, and he has continued to perform penalty heroics for Liverpool since the 2006 FA Cup final, notably in the 2007 Champions League semi-final against Chelsea, when he capped an excellent performance over two legs with two penalty saves in the shoot-out.
Liverpool failed to repeat their Istanbul heroics that year as AC Milan exacted a 2-1 revenge in the final, but Reina's individual performance throughout the season drew the plaudits. With 19 Premier League clean sheets, he won the Golden Glove for the second consecutive year, and on 2nd February 2008, in his 92nd league appearance for the Reds, he became the quickest goalkeeper in their history to reach a half century of shut-outs.
Reina has not missed Premier League match since the final game of the 2006/07 season against Charlton, meaning Saturday's game against Manchester United will be his 160th consecutive league appearance. It is a remarkable record, and furthermore, he has kept a total of 109 clean sheets in his 226 Premier League appearances to date. Overall, since joining Liverpool he has kept 146 clean sheets in 317 games.
At international level, Pepe Reina was part of Spain's Euro 2008 and World Cup 2010-winning squads. He has made 22 appearances for La Roja since making his debut in a friendly against Uruguay in 2005, but he is unfortunate that his career has coincided with that of Casillas, Spain's current captain. While he may be second choice for his country, Reina still comes comfortably inside the world's top five goalkeepers.
Reina is as important to Kenny Dalglish's Liverpool as fellow Kop heroes Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher, and in the absence of those two, it has been the Spaniard who has taken the captain's armband.
In September, Reina announced that he was happy to stay at Liverpool for another five or six years. If he can uphold the high standards he has set himself since 2005, that could be the best news Liverpool fans hear all year.
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