Reina Explains Exit

Clive Mason

As the feel-good factor builds around the Liverpool squad, the inevitable mood-flattener arrives in the form of a letter from Pepe Reina to the Liverpool fans, which manages to be both touching and caustic.

Admit it. You were uneasy with all the recent pleasantness, weren't you? Coutinho's genius, the magnificence of our foreign support, the elevation of Zaf Iqbal to monarch status -- these things were wonderful but oddly unsettling and uncomfortable. Like an Irishman in a heatwave, you knew you were supposed to be happy and grateful for the delightful change, but you secretly longed for the clouds to return and the sweet, sweet misery of the rain to enfold you once more in its laconic embrace.

To that end, we wake this morning, to the letter penned by Pepe Reina to the fans of Liverpool Football Club, which has been published on the goalkeeper's own website. It's a carefully thought-out and precisely-worded piece that manages the twin tasks of lauding the club, its fans and its traditions, whilst expressing a kind of hurt bewilderment as to how the player finds himself in Napoli, this season.

Already Twitter is abuzz with this latest controversy and lines are being drawn in the sand. Reina is either a wronged innocent or the Spaniard is twisting the recent past in order to appear like the injured party. Apparently it's impossible to have a balanced view which encapsulates bits of both. If you are a knee-jerk reactionary, look away for a couple of paragraphs because confusion will enrage your already feverish brain still further, as you search for a definitive stance to rail against. Let us try, at least, to talk about what actually happened, minus the agendas or rabid dogmatism.

Since he joined the club eight years ago, Pepe Reina, by dint of his consistency, excellence and ebullient personality, has become a firm favourite with Liverpool's fans. He missed the catalyst that was Istanbul, but he was there for every minute of the brief golden era of European greatness that followed under the canny stewardship of Rafa Benitez. When we think of the most inspiring nights of recent history, we picture Reina's muscular frame and smiling countenance as a key part of it.

Latterly, as the gleam has faded from those heady days and the club has lurched from disaster to controversy via abysmal league form, Reina has suffered too. His drop in form was nowhere near as bad as claimed by some but it was definitely noticeable, despite what his more one-eyed supporters would say. As last season came to an end and fans began to see a little of what Brendan Rodgers would like to implement at Anfield, Reina's form was rehabilitated and only the constant stories linking him with a return to Barcelona made any Red think of a life without the Spanish custodian.

Ah yes, the stories. Some folk, spitting bile today about the callous treatment of the player by the club, fail to acknowledge that some of those stories were generated by Reina's own father speaking unambiguously about how idyllic a move to Barcelona would be. The man himself understandably admits in his letter that were the Catalonian giants to come calling, he would be happy with the opportunity to "go back home."

Nobody supporting the current incarnation of Liverpool Football Club would begrudge a loyal servant like Reina a chance to play with the world's most currently-successful club, but let us not be deluded about the player's desire to do just that. There is no need for recrimination here.

The majority of Reina's communiqué is a heartfelt paean to the fans, the club and the city and it would take a tremendously cynical individual to besmirch the earnestness of his words. He speaks movingly of the fighting spirit of the denizens of Liverpool, the campaign for justice for The Ninety Six, his children's love for the city and his honour at having represented the "most wonderful English club."

Where the waters get murky is when Reina speaks about the "regret" he feels at "the way" he is leaving Liverpool. He claims that the management of the club "agreed to loan [him] to Napoli without telling [him] first." The player believes that he "deserved better than that" and strikes a definite note of annoyance with the way the move was handled. This will have many frothing at the mouth and calling for Rodgers' head on a plate and it may well be that the machinations were less considerate of the Spaniard than they might have been but it was the Reina's own agent, Manuel Garcia Quillon, who spoke of Napoli as a "welcome destination" for his client back on the 18th of July.

Reina goes on to speak about how "a lot has been made" of his open interest in Barcelona, and Brendan Rodgers has said toThe Anfield Wrap podcast that he fully expected a bid from the Spanish champions over the summer and that that was what precipitated the arrival of Simon Mignolet. When that move failed to materialise, the club were left with a massive earner who might not play and so there was a lot of wittering about the merits of competition. In light of the loan to Napoli, this type of talk seems more than a touch disingenuous.

Irrespective of your stance on how Pepe Reina's move to Napoli has come about, it is probably healthiest if one sticks only to the 'knowables' in the whole scenario. In the end, Liverpool have lost another totemic figure as they look to progress and build in the season to come. Reina says that he hopes to return, but whether he does or not, he should be remembered less for the manner of his departure than the tremendous work he did to make his loss such an emotive one for fans of Liverpool Football Club.

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