The idea of two top-class goalkeepers competing for the starting spot was seductive one, and one that, in the end, was too good to be true. Simon Mignolet's arrival at Liverpool was heralded as a chance for he and Pepe Reina to go at it throughout the summer and the coming season--for Reina to be challenged for the first time in his Liverpool career. His gradual decline came as place in goal became further and further cemented, and to finally have someone nipping at his heels to push him along to his form of old almost seemed too good to be true. And today, after a week filled with exit talks, we're again reminded that it was.
Reina's vague confirmation on Twitter earlier in the week made it real, and today was the first time that Brendan Rodgers spoke concretely on the deal, elaborating on how the process unfolded and why an exit for Reina was the only outcome for which Liverpool had prepared:
"It was obviously a difficult decision. From last season, really, as a manager I was led to believe that we were going to get an offer for Pepe that would probably see him leave the club. On the football side, we have to protect the team, and at that stage we started our search for another goalkeeper.
"That found us Simon Mignolet, who's top class - one of the top young European goalkeepers. As events transpired, that move [for Reina] didn't happen and it left us with two very good goalkeepers. Both would have been fighting for the No.1 position. Then obviously an opportunity arose for Pepe and it was one we felt as a football club was best for him to take."
That can and likely will be taken as though Rodgers and the club were deceitful in their assertions that they'd have both at the club, but Rodgers' reasoning also makes plenty of sense. We all thought Pepe Reina was leaving Liverpool, and were the club not prepared for that reality--be it this season or next--Rodgers would be in for an absolute roasting. We can't have it both ways, even if the deal involves a player that we've all come to love over the past eight years.
Pepe Reina's exit will be felt, full stop. Simon Mignolet will ideally fill the void left by Reina's fading form and fancy statistics and numbers and blahblahblah, but he can't possibly provide the sentimental attachment, nice fellow as he might be, that we had with Pepe. Not yet, at least.