Pepe Reina of Spain celebrates with the World Cup trophy, 2010 ( Bernd Weissbrod/DPA/PA Images)

Pepe Reina becomes 44th player in football history to hit incredible milestone

Pepe Reina reached an incredible career landmark as his side defeated Cadiz on Wednesday night.

The ex-Liverpool stopper kept a clean sheet in a 2-0 victory in Villarreal’s penultimate home fixture of the La Liga campaign.

It was a historic night from an individual perspective as it marked Reina’s 1,000th professional appearance, an achievement which was recognised by his former club on their Twitter account.

The 40-year-old joins an exclusive list of players to have racked up a four-figure number of career appearances, including the likes of Xavi, Iker Casillas and Roberto Carlos.

Reina is approximately the 44th player to achieve the feat, with definitive numbers for players in older generations difficult to obtain as the records only go back so far.

His achievement is all the more impressive when you factor in that his entire career has been spent at top-flight clubs.

Peter Shilton currently holds the record for most professional male appearances in the sport with almost 1,500, a tally that is unlikely to be matched any time soon.

Former Liverpool No. 1 Ray Clemence also joins Reina on the list with around 1,200 games and his figure would likely have been even greater had it not been for the sheer existence of Shilton himself in the England squad.

LONDON, ENGLAND - Saturday, April 4, 2009: Liverpool's goalkeeper Pepe Reina celebrates with Lucas Leiva after his side's 1-0 victory over Fulham during the Premiership match at Craven Cottage. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Only 12 of the names on the list are still actively playing today, including the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.

Speaking ahead of the Cadiz clash, Reina described himself as “very lucky” to still be able to compete at a high level and admitted that Villarreal will be the “last club” of his career.

“I feel very thankful and very lucky because I love what I do. That’s the only secret, dedication, being as professional as I can,” Reina explained to the BBC World Service.

“I want to keep going as long as they want me. As long as I am OK to be helpful with the team, I’ll be around. The club knows.

CARDIFF, WALES - SATURDAY, MAY 13th, 2006: Liverpool's goakeeper Jose Reina celebrates saving the last penalty shot from West Ham United's Anton Ferdinand to win the FA Cup during the FA Cup Final at the Millennium Stadium. (Pic by Jason Roberts/Propaganda)

“Whenever they decide I’m no longer any help for the club, on the field at least, I will hang up the gloves because (it’s) clearly going to be my last club.”

Reina made 394 of his appearances in a Liverpool shirt, helping the Reds on their way to the 2007 Champions League final in Athens.

His heroics in the 2006 FA Cup final penalty shoot-out earned him a winners’ medal in his first season at the club to go alongside the Super Cup victory earlier in the campaign.

The Spaniard also picked up three consecutive Premier League Golden Gloves in his first three seasons on Merseyside as he became a vital component of the Rafael Benitez era.

He returned to Anfield with Aston Villa in July 2020 but the covid pandemic prevented supporters from welcoming the goalkeeper back in front of the Kop.