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On-Loan: Rambunctious Reina

Pepe Reina's Italian adventure hasn't gone entirely as planned, but the veteran goalkeeper has still had a productive season on a whole.

Michael Steele

After seemingly being replaced with the signing of Simon Mignolet in the summer, Pepe Reina's status as a Liverpool player was thrown in to major question at the Belgrian's arrival. After the will-he-won't-he back and forth with the potential of a move to Barcelona for much of the summer, Reina's home for the season was finally determined when the keeper was sent to Italy and former boss Rafa Benitez with a loan to Napoli.

Reina was a long time fan favorite on Merseyside, and was filling the gloves of another much-loved keeper with the departure of Morgan de Sanctis from Napoli to Roma. The Italian club had also bought Brazilian 'keeper Rafael Cabral, but wanted someone with more experience to bridge the gap until it was deemed Rafael was ready to take on the job full time. Given his experience with high-level European play and with new manager Rafa Benitez, Napoli felt that a loan for Reina was the best option, and it's one that made a ton of sense.

Reina got off to a fantastic start with Napoli. After suffering from roller-coaster form in the last few years with Liverpool, where he was rarely the imperious Golden Gloves contender he had been when he first joined the club, he looked like the Pepe of old for the first few months of his Italian career. He had particularly huge performances against AC Milan in Serie A and Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League, including a massive penalty stop against Mario Balotelli in the Milan match.

Unfortunately, since roughly the end of October injuries and another slip in form have left Reina looking too much like the Pepe that's tormented Liverpool fans of the last few years. He's gone from looking confident and assured back to looking tentative too frequently, and rushing off his line at bad times. His last two matches have been a microcosm of these issues, spilling a very saveable shot for an own goal and costly equalizer against minnows Livorno, and rushing out to a ball he couldn't get to after not seeing a back post run to give up a goal against Swansea.

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At this point, with Mignolet playing well and Reina agitating against Liverpool for the last seven months, it's pretty clear that the Spaniard's only future with the club is the time between his current loan expiring and signing a transfer deal to head somewhere else. The trouble is, there's no clear suitor. Napoli was looking unlikely until Rafael Cabral blew out his ACL in the first leg against Swansea, but as things stand Rafa might want him back until Cabral is fit and in form again. Barcelona might still be in the picture as they still haven't tied up Marc-Andre ter Stegen. Otherwise, everything's a bunch of maybes, could-bes, and if-this-happens.

No matter where he winds up, Reina deserves the best wishes of the Liverpool fanbase. While the parting has not been such sweet sorrow so far, he still did a lot of good things for the club while he was here. It'd be nice if things had ended smoother than they have, but that needs to be put in the past as soon as possible, and he will be missed when he's gone.

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