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The Kop Cantona? How Luis Suarez could be this generation's answer to the Manchester United marvel

by Al 7. January 2013 04:56

The last time the Premier League saw a character as enigmatic and brilliant as Liverpool forward Luis Suarez, it was a dazzling Frenchman whose name is still sung on the terraces decades after exiting English football. Eric Cantona's legacy is like no other - but in Suarez the Manchester United legend may have a spiritual successor. It's not a comparison many would leap to, especially not fans of the players' respective clubs, but the similarities are compelling...

When Cantona arrived at United, he was a man on a mission - a rescue mission. United were languishing behind Aston Villa and Blackburn Rovers as well as surprise challengers Norwich City and Queens Park Rangers in the race for the 1992-93 Premier League title when the French maestro, sold by Leeds United for a paltry £1.2m to rid chairman Bill Fotherby of an outcast deemed unpredictable and lacking commitment, turned up to jolt the Manchester club's season into life. With summer signing Dion Dublin sidelined with a broken leg and Bryan McClair and Mark Hughes desperately out of form, Cantona was relied upon to deliver much-needed goals - and deliver he did. 9 goals later, United were ten points ahead of the pack, romping home to perhaps the most unlikely title in their history.

Suarez enjoyed a similar impact. Not unlike Cantona, he was offloaded mid-season to a side struggling for goals after a string of controversial incidents and handed the number 7 shirt. Both shirts came laden with expectation. At Liverpool, the number was previously donned by Dalglish and Kevin Keegan, while at United previous owners were the mercurial George Best and Bryan Robson. The Uruguayan came off the bench to score on his debut (despite not having had time to train with the team before the match, taking place just days after his transfer) and was highly influential in his remaining 12 appearances, rocketing the Reds up to sixth and into Europe. "The boy's a very special player. A Liverpool legend in the making," said Dalglish as Suarez quickly established himself as one of the most dangerous strikers in the league just as Cantona had done two seasons previous.

In the years that followed both stars' arrivals, they became increasingly depended upon, with critics suggesting both Manchester United and Liverpool had become one man teams. In the 93-94 season, Cantona provided 31% of the team's goals (compared to the last time United won the league in 2011, during which leading scorer Dimitar Berbatov scored 25% of the team's goals) while so far this season Suarez has been involved in 58% of Liverpool's goals. In 2012 the Kop hero created 75 chances from open play to become the Premier League's second most effective attacking player, second only to Manchester City's David Silva, and took more shots on goal than any other player in the English game (163), scoring 19.

Though their playing styles are different, with Suarez's game characterised by nimble runs and scrambled goal  s a world apart from the leisurely, elegant play typical of the Frenchman, the pair are also drawn together by their penchant for controversy. This weekend saw the latest Suarez storm, with the star labelled a cheat for handling the ball to score the decisive goal in a 2-1 FA Cup victory over Mansfield. Since landing in England he's been embroiled in an alleged racism scandal that dominated headlines in 2012, handed a ban for taunting opposition support and accused of diving. Before that he was famously sent off in a tense 2010 World Cup clash between Uruguay and Ghana for clearing the ball from the line with his hands and labelled the Cannibal of Ajax for biting an opponent.

Eric Cantona Signed Manchester United 1996 FA Cup Winners Shirt

Cantona meanwhile was rarely out of the headlines during his tenure at Manchester United. The Frenchman averaged a red card once in every 24 Premier League games. To put that into context, reputed Premier League hardmen Roy Keane and Patrick Viera averaged a sending off once in every 54 and 35 games respectively. Even the game's most notorious hardman Vinnie Jones was sent off less times than Cantona. But it was a cold January evening at Selhurst Park in 1995 that will go down as his most infamous moment. Sent off for a kick on Crystal Palace defender Richard Shaw, the Frenchman launched a kung-fu kick to the chest of an abusive fan as he headed for the dressing room, earning a lengthy ban and 100 hours of community service. His only explanation of his actions at the later press conference? "When the seagulls follow the trawler, it's because they think sardines will be thrown into the sea. Thank you very much."

But the greatest similarity between the two players is not the controversy they attract but how they each rise above it. When Suarez eventually retires, it won't be the furore that he's remembered for. It'll be the football. The deft touches. The gasps from the crowds as another ball is guided into the back of the net with surgical precision. Just like Cantona.

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Steven Gerrard celebrates 100 England caps! Here's five of his finest moments…

by Al 14. November 2012 13:26

Steven Gerrard will tonight join an elite band of England footballers to earn 100 caps for the national side – a milestone only five other players have reached.

Bobby Charlton and Bobby Moore are the most decorated of English centurions having been at the centre of 1966’s World Cup-winning team while Peter Shilton is one of the most celebrated keepers of all time, David Beckham a national institution and legendary Wolves centre half Billy Wright the man who started it all, making history in 1959 as the first person to hit 100 appearances. But there’s something special about Gerrard, his cavalier style of play the perfect blend of modern technical brilliance and old fashioned English industriousness.

To celebrate the occasion, here’s the Liverpool captain’s top five moments in an England shirt…

Debut star (vs. Ukraine, May 2000)

Gerrard came on for Michael Owen in a pre-Euro 2000 friendly having caught the eye of Kevin Keegan in the build-up to the tournament. An impressive cameo alongside Paul Scholes had fans predicting he was an England legend in the making. They weren’t wrong…

Demolition job (vs. Germany, September 2001)

The Liverpool midfielder truly arrived on the international scene with his performance in this 2002 World Cup qualifier in which England tore apart their fiercest rivals. 5-1 was the score at the final whistle, giving a nation hope for a new dawn of English football. It wasn’t to be but Gerrard, who was at the heart of that victory with a storming display, also scoring his first international goal, has rarely dropped below the quality he exhibited in that game.

World Cup screamer (vs. Trinidad and Tobago, June 2006)

Gerrard has notched up an admirable 19 goals for his country. This has to go down as one of the most memorable, a thunderbolt from 20 yards out with the game precariously placed at 1-0. His strike put the tie beyond Trinidad and Tobago and England into the next round of the 2006 World Cup.

Diamond in the rough (vs. USA, June 2010)

England’s 2010 World Cup campaign may have ended in disaster – a string of subpar performances saw Fabio Capello’s team scrape unconvincingly out of the group stages only to be smashed 4-1 by Germany in the knockout stages. One silver lining, however, was Gerrard who, elected captain, was one of the few players to replicate their bright club form at the tournament, scoring a fantastic team goal within the opening minutes of the opening game against USA.

Running the show (vs. Ukraine, June 2012)

Gerrard gave what team mate Wayne Rooney described as his best ever England performance against Ukraine, providing the striker with the cross that led to the goal that took England into the next round.

At 32, there are some who say Gerrard won’t make it much beyond his 100th cap. But if the insurmountable Scouser has proven anything in his career, it’s to never write him off.

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Icons Legend of the Week: Paul Scholes

by Al 21. September 2012 09:00

18 years ago today, Paul Scholes made his first team debut, scoring both goals as Manchester United overcame Port Vale in the Football League Cup. A lot has changed in football since but somehow the midfield maestro’s impact on the pitch remains the same – his passing range still unbeatable, the way he dictates games even more masterful and his probing play on the edge of the area still a constant source of goals for the Manchester club.

Though a Salford lad through and through – he was born not far from Old Trafford and on the rare occasions he talks to the TV cameras, does so with a strong Mancunian accent and sharp Northern sense of humour - there’s something distinctly un-English about Scholes.

In a footballing culture that idolises industrious runners and bullish charges forward, the 37-year-old is known for his patient passing play - since returning for Manchester United in January 2012 after a stab at retirement (“he was missing it too much,” says Sir Alex Ferguson) Scholes has maintained a 92.37% pass completion rate, losing possession on average once every 154 minutes.

It’s this sort of measured, elegant movement of the ball that has made champions of Spain and Barcelona – and Scholes may well be the inspiration. “Paul Scholes is a role model,” says the man regarded this generation’s pass-master, Xavi Hernandez. “For me – and I really mean this – he’s the best central midfielder I’ve seen in the last 15, 20 years. If he’d been Spanish he might have been rated more highly.”

Xavi isn’t the only great of the game to rate the Manchester United mainstay. “Scholes is undoubtedly the greatest midfielder of his generation,” argues Zinedine Zidane, while Brazil’s Socrates says: “He is good enough to play for Brazil. I love to watch Scholes, to see him pass, the boy with the red hair and red shirt.” Typically, despite his incredible reputation among his peers, Scholes is quick to play down his own talents: “when [my career is] over I just want to be able look in the mirror and say, well, you were a half-decent player.”

For Scholes’ legion of admirers, that humility is part of what makes him special even beyond his feats on the pitch. “No celebrity bullshit, no self-promotion – an amazingly gifted player who remained an unaffected human being,” says Roy Keane. Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger meanwhile suggests: “he [does] not get completely what he deserves as a player because he’s not a media lion. He’s not the one who runs after the media to be in the papers. I respect that.”

There’s a sense that Scholes is a player whose focus is resolutely on the pitch, with little time for the glittering lifestyle that comes with life at the top – a dying breed of footballer, particularly among the English.

Perhaps it should be of no surprise, then, that Scholes’ England career never really took off in the way it should have and ended prematurely, his managers at international level seemingly unable to accommodate a player whose approach to football is arguably more sophisticated than that of the rest of the team. Having guided Manchester United to such success in his time at Old Trafford – the 37-year-old has won 10 Premier League titles, the Champions League twice, 3 FA Cups, 5 Community Shields and 2 League Cups in his 18 years at the club – it’s tempting to wonder what England could have achieved had one coach had the guile to build their team around the dynamic, progressive Scholes rather than his flashier counterparts.

When Scholes lines up against Liverpool tomorrow, he'll make his 701st appearance in United colours (the third highest number after Ryan Giggs and Bobby Charlton). But whatever the outcome of that particular grudge match, his reputation as one of the game's greatest unsung heroes is beyond dispute.

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Win a signed Luis Suarez shirt with Icons and ESPN!

by Al 9. May 2012 05:38

Icons have a great relationship with the good people at ESPN and this week we're teaming up to give away a signed Luis Suarez Liverpool shirt to one lucky winner.

To enter the competition click here and answer the simple question. The deadline for entries is midnight (GMT) on Sunday 13 May. Don't miss out on this amazing opportunity - enter now!

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Icons FA Cup Final Special!

by Al 3. May 2012 05:51

This Saturday Chelsea and Liverpool clash at Wembley in the 131st FA Cup final. To celebrate this fantastic footballing occasion, Icons are offering special discounts on personally signed boots from star strikers Fernando Torres and Luis Suarez.

Fernando Torres has endured a difficult time at Chelsea since his £50m transfer from Liverpool in January 2011, but his dramatic solo goal in the dying minutes of Chelsea's Champions League semi-final against Barcelona at Camp Nou has proved a turning point. Playing with newly-found confidence and conviction, Torres smashed a superb hat-trick in the following game against QPR. He is now making a strong case for inclusion in Vicente del Bosque's Spain squad for Euro 2012. Check out his personally signed Nike Total 90 boot here and grab yourself a fantastic £75 OFF while the offer lasts.

The day before Torres' hat-trick against QPR, Liverpool's Luis Suarez completed one of the finest trebles in Premier League history in a 3-0 defeat of Norwich. The fiery Uruguayan has been a figure of controversy this season, but his performance against Norwich was a reminder of the dazzling skill and ability that has made him one of Europe's most in-demand strikers. Now is your chance to make the most of a fantastic £75 REDUCTION and pick up an Adidas F50 boot personally signed by Suarez himself. Take a look here.

Cup competitions have provided welcome relief for both Chelsea and Liverpool this season. While Kenny Dalglish’s Liverpool have already secured the Carling Cup trophy, Chelsea have the Champions League final against Bayern Munich to look forward to on 25 May. With a historic cup double on the cards for both sides, Saturday’s match promises to be a fiercely contested affair.

So who will you be backing, Liverpool or Chelsea? Suarez or Torres? Grab your discounted signed boot now, and let us know your FA Cup final predictions on Twitter @icons_football.

Buy the Suarez boot HERE

Buy the Torres boot HERE

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Steven Gerrard: Cup Final Specialist

by Al 1. March 2012 10:50

Since breaking into the Liverpool first team in 1998, Icon Steven Gerrard has made a habit of putting in big performances when it matters. The Liverpool captain has won an impressive seven out of nine major cup finals with Liverpool, including Sunday’s Carling Cup triumph against Cardiff, and scored five crucial goals in the process. As Gerrard continues his attempts to rediscover his best form after a year on the sidelines, we recall his greatest cup final moments.

*Remember to open video links in a new tab

UEFA Cup final vs Alavés (goal at 1 min 42secs)

Gerrard’s first cup final goal came at the age of 20 in Liverpool’s enthralling 5-4 UEFA Cup triumph against Spanish side Alavés in 2001. Gerrard’s well taken finish from a Michael Own through ball put Liverpool 2-0 up inside 16 minutes, but it was already a distant memory when, six goals later, unfortunate Alavés defender Delfí Geli’s ‘own golden goal’ handed Gerrard and Liverpool victory in the 117th minute.

League Cup final vs Man Utd

This is why Gerrard should never be allowed time and space to shoot from range. David Beckham, of all people, should have known better. In the 2003 League Cup final at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium, Beckham, in his last season at Manchester United, dawdles in his attempt to close down Gerrard, allowing his England teammate to release a fierce drive at goal from 25 yards out. Beckham sticks out a leg but it’s too late, he only succeeds in deflecting the ball up and over goalkeeper Fabian Barthez. Gerrard’s opener sent Liverpool on their way to a 2-0 victory, while Beckham was left only a stray boot to the face away from a transfer to Real Madrid.

Champions League final vs AC Milan

Inspiring Liverpool’s legendary second-half comeback in Istanbul in 2005 remains the greatest achievement of Steven Gerrard’s glittering Liverpool career. After a catastrophic opening 45 minutes left Liverpool 0-3 down at half-time, Gerrard took matters into his own hands. This excellent header from John Arne Riise’s cross in the 54th minute (pictured above) set the wheels in motion for one of the most remarkable comebacks in European football history. After the wild celebrations that followed, Gerrard’s fellow goalscorer Vladimir Smicer said: “The cup ended up with Stevie G in his room. His girlfriend wasn’t here, so he had the cup in his bed instead.” He revealed no further details.

FA Cup final vs West Ham

Another unforgettable cup final defined by Steven Gerrard here, as his stunning injury time volley makes it 3-3, sending the 2006 FA Cup final against West Ham to extra time and penalties, where Liverpool again emerged triumphant. “It’s like Istanbul all over again for Liverpool,” says veteran commentator John Motson, as Gerrard wheels away in celebration with, erm, Jan Kromkamp.

League Cup final vs Chelsea

Sorry Liverpool fans, but here’s a rare cup final lapse from Gerrard, as he diverts the ball into his own net in the 2005 League Cup final against Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea. Liverpool were beaten 2-3 in extra-time, but, as we all know, Gerrard more than made amends three months later in Istanbul.

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A Year in Review: Luis Suarez

by Al 2. December 2011 05:27

2011 has been a whirlwind for Liverpool's explosive striker Luis Suarez. Following his £22.7m transfer from Dutch champions Ajax in January, Suarez has established himself as one of the most dangerous strikers in the Premier League and a worthy proprietor to Liverpool's iconic no7 shirt. This week we met up with the Uruguayan hotshot in London for our second signing session together. 

An unspectacular return of 11 goals in 29 appearances for Liverpool in 2011 does not tell the full story for Suarez. Boundless energy and enthusiasm combined with outstanding skill and technique have made him a Kop favourite. The fiery Uruguayan was an instant hit at Anfield, scoring 16 minutes into his debut against Stoke City in February. He has been Liverpool's shining light all year. He further endeared himself to Kopites with his first Merseyside derby goal against Everton in a 2-0 win in October.

Suarez has never been a character to shy away from the spotlight, and since his move to England he has made for compulsive viewing. Goals continue to arrive sporadically for the Uruguayan, but he has been at the heart of Liverpool's finest moments this year. When the ball is not at his feet, he is usually furiously barking orders at teammates or madly sprinting after lost causes. He has tireless endeavour to match sublime talent, and he has become one of the most entertaining (and controversial) players around.

While trophies at Liverpool remain a work in progress, Suarez has already tasted glory with Uruguay in 2011 at the Copa America in Argentina. One of the stars of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, Suarez was similarly effective this summer in Argentina. He was named Player of the Tournament and scored four goals in total, including a brace in the semi-final against Peru and one in the final against Paraguay. His excellent form at international level continued when he sensationally netted all four of Uruguay's goals as they beat Chile 4-0 in a World Cup qualifier in early November. He now boasts 26 goals in 52 games for Uruguay, and it's surely only a matter of time before the floodgates open at Liverpool too.

We held our first signing with Luis back in March of this year, and we were delighted to catch up with him for a second time this week. Check out our superb new range of signed products from the Liverpool star.

The famous no7 shirt

Brand new Adidas boot

Trademark goal celebration

To view the full range click here

Forward Friday: El Niño, Fernando Torres

by Al 28. October 2011 08:49

Chelsea's Fernando Torres is finally putting his nightmare start at Stamford Bridge behind him. The £50m man only managed one goal in 18 appearances for the Blues last term, but a new season has heralded a new start, and with four goals and three assists in nine games so far, Torres returns from suspension against Arsenal this Saturday with restored confidence and a point to prove.

Torres has looked an altogether different animal this season, prompting manager André Villas-Boas and teammates alike to hail his improved performances and renewed hunger in front of goal. Chelsea boast a formidable glut of striking talent, but if the former Liverpool man can recapture his Anfield form, he will be confident of keeping the likes of Didier Drogba, Nicolas Anelka and Daniel Sturridge out of the team.

The Spaniard took the Premier League by storm after his £21m transfer from Atlético Madrid to Rafa Benitez's Liverpool in 2007. Torres emerged as one of Europe's brightest young talents in the Spanish capital, and after making his debut at the age of 17, 'El Niño' became Atlético's youngest ever club captain two years later. By the time he departed the Vicente Calderón, Torres had hit an impressive 82 goals in 214 appearances.

It was at Anfield, however, that he truly blossomed. Allying pace and strength with deadly finishing and intelligent movement, Torres surpassed Ruud van Nistelrooy's record for the highest scoring debut season from a foreign import in the Premier League, with 24 goals. He quickly became a Kop favourite and was named in the PFA Team of the Year in successive seasons. 

It was only after Rafa Benitez's departure from Liverpool in the summer of 2010 that Torres began to consider his future. The side struggled under the stewardship of Roy Hodgson, and when Chelsea came in for him in the 2011 January transfer window, a disillusioned Torres was able to complete an acrimonious transfer away from the club. At £50m, Torres set a new British transfer record and became the fourth most expensive player in history.

After a difficult start at Chelsea, Torres now looks set to become the focal point of the Blues' attack. The signings of fellow Spaniards Juan Mata - with whom Torres has already combined to devastating effect - and former Barcelona youngster Oriel Romeu have helped him settle in London, and his improved morale has sparked a string of encouraging performances.

At international level, Torres has scored 27 goals in 89 appearances for Spain, and has featured in every major tournament since Euro 2004. Among his career highlights is his man of the match performance and winning goal in Spain's 1-0 victory in the Euro 2008 final. Torres is, of course, a World Cup winner too, but his involvement for Spain in South Africa was hindered by a lack of fitness after an injury-disrupted 2009/10 season with Liverpool.

Things are looking up for a resurgent Torres though, and when Chelsea welcome London rivals Arsenal to Stamford Bridge on Saturday, he will be the man charged with breaking the Gunners down. Suddenly, he's looking like someone Chelsea can rely on.

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Icons Legend of the Week #16: Nicolas Anelka

by Al 25. October 2011 11:05

After a career punctuated by ill-discpline and controversy, Chelsea's Nicolas Anelka seems to have finally found his feet in West London and put his stormy past behind him. On Saturday the Frenchman will line up against Arsenal, the club where it all began.

It was in February 1997 that Anelka first arrived on English shores. Newly appointed Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger paid £500,000 to take the highly rated 17-year-old from Paris Saint-Germain to North London, and it proved a typically shrewd acquisition.

Anelka made his first team breakthrough during Arsenal's double-winning 1997/98 season (pictured below) following an injury to Ian Wright. He became an important first team player, scoring his most important goal for the Gunners in their 2-0 FA Cup final victory against Newcastle United. The following season Anelka continued to excel, scoring 17 Premier League goals and winning the PFA Young Player of the Year Award. 

Arsenal failed to secure any silverware that year, however, and as Anelka sought a move to a bigger club, the fans turned against him, nicknaming him "Le Sulk" for his perceived lack of enthusiasm. Unfortunately, in the years that followed, Anelka would prove that this ill-discipline was far from a one-off.

So it was in the summer of 1999 that Anelka moved to Spanish giants Real Madrid for a huge £22.3m fee. Precociously talented, the Frenchman looked to have the world at his feet, but despite a bright start at the Bernabeu, his fiery temperament and bad attitude proved his undoing. He left Madrid for old club PSG for £20m after just one season, having fallen out with teammates, fans and new coach Vicente del Bosque. Once banned for 45 days for refusing to train, Anelka was deemed surplus to requirements at the Bernabeu despite playing a crucial role in Real Madrid's successful 1999/00 Champions League campaign.

Anelka made a return to the Premier League in 2002 when he joined Gerard Houllier's Liverpool on a short-term loan, but when Houllier opted against signing him at the end of the season, he ended up at Manchester City for another large fee, this time £13m. Anelka settled in at Maine Road nicely, top scoring for the club with 14 goals in his first season. He bettered that total the following year, but in 2005 the nomadic striker moved to Turkish side Fenerbache for £7m.

After Fenerbache it was Bolton Wanderers. Anelka signed for the Trotters for £8m in 2006, but after a season and a half and an impressive 23 goals, Chelsea came in for him with a £15m bid and Anelka joined his eighth different club, and his fifth in the Premier League.

Anelka took time to settle in at Stamford Bridge, but in 2008/09 he impressed with a total of 25 goals. He has gone on to become an important player for the Blues, and in the 2009/10 season he formed a devastating partnership with Didier Drogba, firing the West Londoners to a Premier League and FA Cup double, his first since his Arsenal days.

Anelka made his France debut way back in 1998 and scored 14 goals in 69 caps, but it is not an international career that will be remembered fondly. Anelka caused a storm of controversy at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa when he was sent home for verbally abusing coach Raymond Domenech. He received an 18-game international ban for his actions, but claimed he had already made his decision to retire before his ban was announced.

In total, seven different clubs have paid a total of £86.8m for Anelka since 1997. His controversial past does not mask his wonderful talent, and the 32-year-old is no longer the trouble-maker he once was. The argument that he could have made more of his career is a strong one, but Anelka has still proved himself to be one of the most dangerous strikers in Europe. When he takes to the field against Arsenal this Saturday, he will have another opportunity to prove his doubters wrong. 

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Icons Legend of the Week #14: Pepe Reina

by Al 11. October 2011 08:01

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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Welcome to the icons blog, we'll be regularly posting here about what's going on with our star signings and what new products have arrived

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