The Great Debate: Is Pepe now the Greatest?

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Is Pepe Reina now the greatest goalkeeper in Liverpool’s history?

It’s a divisive and somewhat impossible question to pose. Nobody can chart back long enough to assess the qualities of every number one to hold court at Anfield. Then again, few incumbents can realistically stake a claim for that title. In a battle of attrition Elsiha Scott, Ray Clemence, Bruce Grobelaar and the charismatic Spaniard rise above all pretenders. And with every passing save, Reina’s credentials multiply.

The fact Pepe collected last term’s player of the season was a sad indictment of the side’s overall performance. Nevertheless, it did underline his immense importance to the team. Since his arrival he has been almost faultless and oozes a sense of authority between the sticks. Such assuredness seeps through to the backline, whose confidence grows accordingly. It is no coincidence that together they have amassed countless Golden Glove awards.

Reina’s attributes are numerous. A great shot stopper, he also possesses an almighty punch, the intuition to ignite quick counter-attacks and a healthy knack of stopping penalities. Vocally he stays in constant contact with his teammates and his distribution is also excellent.

Moreover he possesses a visibly infectious personality. All Kopites have marvelled at his eccentric celebrations on the international stage. But success at that level has not tempered his passion for Liverpool, to whom evident loyalty was displayed when a contract extension was signed earlier this year.

His popularity has even led to Messer’s Gerrard and Carragher nominating him as a future club captain. Indeed he is firmly established as a favourite on and off the field. That in mind, you cannot help but feel for the newly acquired Brad Jones – who faces a daunting task in displacing his immediate rival.

Inevitably, the occasional clanger is not without standing but errors are extremely rare in Pepe’s game. An opening day fumble against Arsenal was magnified due to the lead Liverpool held at that point. Such an advantage was however merely intact due to Reina’s earlier brilliance, namely an outstanding save made to deny Tomas Rosiscky.

Pepe Reina Liverpool 2010/11 Birmingham City V Liverpool (0-0) 12/09/10 The Premier League Photo Robin Parker Fotosports International Photo via Newscom

Aside from that unfortunate mishap his only other notable mistakes arose against Everton way back in 2006 and the FA Cup Final a few months beforehand. Of course he later rectified all wrong-doing that day in Cardiff. Consistency is precious in the life of a goalkeeper and Reina has managed to build a reputation as the most reliable stopper in the land.

His status as the Premier League‘s leading ‘keeper is today pretty much accepted. Joe Hart and Shay Given may challenge that assumption but few others enter the fray. The media’s obsession with Petr Cech has even died a death, unthinkable a few years ago.

The crazy enigma of Reina’s career will forever be his lack of international pedigree. Iker Casillas is not only a tremendous goalkeeper but the poster boy out in Spain, which conspires against our number one. In truth he’d walk into every other national side, yet the Spanish boast an embarrassment of riches.

Meanwhile the sole thing standing against Pepe in the great debate is his medal haul domestically. The revered Clemence accumulated five championship medals, this in addition to three European Cups, two UEFA Cups and an FA Cup. His extroverted successor also collected six titles and wrote himself into folklore with the Spaghetti Legs of Rome.

Hopes of matching those feats are as realistic as Britney singing live but on talent alone, Reina may well be the best of the bunch. Not the greatest, but the best.

At St Andrews this weekend he single-handedly salvaged a point with a string of incredible stops. Sadly his was the only showing of note from a Reds squad devoid of direction.

Hopes of a transition outfield have been hurriedly dispelled. Admittedly, Roy Hodgson needs time and support – which he’ll receive in abundance – but the similarities between his and Rafa Benitez’ tactics are frighteningly uncanny.

Jedward currently occupy the two holding roles in midfield, stifling any hopes of crafting things from the centre. Neither possess the guile required to feed anyone ahead of them. On the flanks Jovanovic resembles a poor imitation of Dirk Kuyt, while Maxi drifts through games with minimal impact.

Yesterday Liverpool set-up with the sole purpose of avoiding defeat. It is that exact stall which has led to a despicable run on the road stretching too far to remember. As supporters it would be nice to witness the team gamble occasionally, release the shackles and hunt a win at such grounds. United do so, as do Arsenal, Chelsea, Spurs, Villa … Sure, we may lose points this way but we’ll probably gain a heck of a lot more than if we simply sit akin to lame ducks.

Failure to land at least one striker in another transfer window also exasperates. The club have yet to replace Robbie Keane, 18 months on from his leaving. Given both the form and injury record of Fernando Torres, as well as the clear rawness of David N’gog, that is criminal.

On the plus side, Raul Meireles looked classy during a 15 minute cameo, while Joe Cole can now return from suspension. It is those kind of footballers who need to come to the fore if Liverpool are to mount a challenge for honours this season. Too many in our ranks our predictable in their play, a negative trait if you ply your trade up-field.

On the contrary predictability is welcomed when it comes to your goalkeeper. After five years we now know exactly what we’re going to get from Pepe Reina – only the best.

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