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Rafa Benitez Says Pepe Reina Will Not Return to Napoli

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Despite hopes Pepe Reina might make Napoli his long-term home, Rafa Benitez insists the Italian side cannot afford the goalkeeper and he is not in their plans.

Paul Gilham

Pepe Reina may say he'd be happy to return to Napoli next season, but it appears as though the club do not consider him to be in their plans. According to manager Rafa Benitez, it isn't about Reina's qualities—it's about wages. At the end of the day, paying anything like Reina's full current wages is beyond what Napoli is willing to invest in the goalkeeper, and so the Italian side will be looking elsewhere this summer.

"Yes," he said simply when asked if reports suggesting Reina's wages would keep him from returning to Napoli next season were accurate. "Pepe has two years left on his contract at Liverpool. He has to go back and he’ll stay there. We can’t afford Pepe’s wages. The Premier League is a very big league and, in Serie A, we don’t pay big wages like in England. He will have to fight for his position at Liverpool."

This past season, Liverpool were believed to have paid half of Reina's £80k wages, subsidising the goalkeeper's time in Italy. That made him affordable for Napoli. Unless he had been willing to take a hefty pay cut to stay, a permanent transfer always looked unlikely. And though the goalkeeper this week suggested he's keeping his options open, it's clear Benitez isn't. Which may not be a good thing, for Reina or Liverpool.

That sides in Italy can't typically pay the kind of wages clubs in England can is a simple fact, but it's one that could also be applied to sides in Spain outside of Barcelona and Real Madrid. With neither of those sides likely to be interested in Reina's services and the player's stock dropping such that he's seen as a good but no longer great goalkeeper, there isn't a side on the content likely to be willing and able to match his current salary.

On last season's form, Reina isn't good enough to challenge Mignolet at Liverpool. Keeping him as a backup after he's spent the past year badmouthing Liverpool and Brendan Rodgers for what he sees as poor treatment seems destined to end badly while tying up a fair chunk of wages is a dedicated back-up. And there isn't an obvious side out there who would want to take Reina on thanks to those wages.

It leaves no good answer to the Pepe Reina dilemma, only less bad ones—like subsidising another season out on loan for the goalkeeper and getting another year's worth of weekly updates on how Liverpool mistreated him.