The king is dead. Long live the king.
Pepe Reina, one time hero of Anfield, now just a step shy of being a Liverpool pariah after spending a year taking one potshot after another at manager and club, has passed his medical with Bayern Munich and just put pen to paper on his shiny new contract.
The trouble is... this deal makes little to no sense for either Reina or Bayern. Let's take a quick look at this deal from the perspective from all three parties involved to see just what's going on here.
For Liverpool, this deal almost has to be a relief. Reina and manager Brendan Rodgers fell out in a big way last summer, as Rodgers brought in Simon Mignolet and installed him as Liverpool's starting goalkeeper. That made sense for Liverpool to so, as Reina and his father were making almost non-stop noises about wanting to join Barcelona, previous loyalty be damned. Then Valdez stayed put for another year, and things got real awkward, real quick.
Reina then went on loan to Napoli, and it seemed like all would be well... except that Reina took every opportunity to tell the media that he was happy to be away from Rodgers and that he wanted nothing to do with Liverpool any more. He had a hot start in Italy, but after a few months returned to the painful decline of the last few years, and as a result Napoli weren't interested in bringing Reina back at his current bloated wage levels, especially not with the highly talented Rafael Cabral around.
That left Reina with no obvious suitors for his services and stuck at a club that he didn't want to be at, and that wasn't terribly interested in having him. Things were so bad that it was reported, and confirmed by player and manager, that he and Rodgers basically didn't speak to each other during Liverpool's United States tour that just wrapped up. This deal comes as almost a godsend to them, getting his wages off their books and adding a few more shekels to a transfer budget that seen a lot of spending already made. It's entirely possible that they didn't even blink before accepting Bayern's offer when it was made.
This deal makes sense for Reina in that it takes him away from Anfield and to a team that can afford his wages (and is apparently willing to keep paying them)... but that's where the sense ends, and the questions begin.
At 31 years old, Reina is in the middle of what's supposed to be a goalkeeper's prime. They "peak" much later than other players tend to, and as such enjoy longer careers and spells of quality play much later in to their 30's than most. Not every keeper keeps to those "rules", though, and Reina seems to be one of those exceptions as he's been in a steady and alarming decline over the past several years.
Still, though, Reina's not a bad goalkeeper and is perfectly capable of starting at many clubs these days, though few can either afford or tolerate his wages. Even with that wage limitation in mind, though, why would, or should, he accept being a backup, which he clearly would be at Bayern with Manuel Neuer (better known as the world's best goalkeeper) holding things down in goal? At best, Reina is looking at 10-15 matches a season while he's in Germany, and playing that little could put his status as Spain's top reserve goalkeeper in jeopardy. Is reuniting with Pep Guardiola really worth sacrificing this much of his career?
This is where things really seem odd. As mentioned above, they already have the best goalkeeper around in Manuel Neuer. He's also perhaps the best example of a "sweeper keeper", or a goalkeeper who moves around much more and plays a bigger role with the ball at his feet than normal, that we've ever seen.
It would make sense that Bayern would want a more like-for-like backup for Neuer than Tom Starke gives them, and Reina certainly provides that as he's a fair sweeper himself. He's also unquestionably a significant upgrade in quality from Starke, even considering how far Reina has declined in recent years.
Even with that in mind, though, if Munich is paying Reina even something close to his current wages, that's an insanely large amount of money to be paying a backup goalkeeper. Bayern can probably afford it without too much sweat, but in a world where UEFA's Financial Fair Play regulations are in effect, spending that kind of money on a backup goalkeeper makes even less sense.
Sure, you need a good backup, especially after Bayern had to deal with a random series of 'keeper injuries last season. But there's a reasonable amount of preparedness and then there's going over the top. Guess which one this looks like?
Where things start looking even more strange is when you look at the rest of Bayern's summer. Yes, they added Robert Lewandowski, and presumably on rather high wages, but they signed him on a free transfer, saving themselves a bundle of money in the process. Their only other signings so far were Juan Bernat, who they got on a low fee and low wages, and Sebastian Rode, signed on a free at relatively low wages. They're not spending a ton of money this summer, so why make this move?
On another financial angle, look at what happened with Toni Kroos. The dynamic attacking midfielder was sold to Real Madrid after the World Cup, and was reportedly only available because Bayern refused to give him a raise on his wages... a raise thought to be roughly equivalent to Reina's wages. You could make an argument based on FFP that his sale was necessary, but the sale of Mario Mandzukic had them covered for their other business this summer from that perspective.
If you ask any Bayern fan if they'd rather have Toni Kroos, one of the world's best midfielders, or a backup goalkeeper, even a very good one, it's probably not hard to figure out what their answer would be.
On the whole, this is just an odd deal. At the surface it all makes sense and nothing seems too unusual, but once you go beyond that and look at the financial and competitive angles, it all starts to smell strange. Liverpool are the only ones coming away without questions on this one, and in fact they're probably just relieved that it's all done. But why would Reina go and be a backup at this stage of his career? Why would Bayern pay so much for a backup when they weren't willing to keep one of their superstars with the same money? How can they keep him happy with so little playing time available?
This isn't a sport that always makes sense, and if you want a shining example of that, look no further than this deal.