There was a moment of sadness in Pepe Reina’s goodbye letter to Liverpool fans, a point of clear criticism directed at the club management.
Reina, after eight seasons at Liverpool, in which he barely missed a game, felt that he deserved to leave on his own terms. He would have preferred to go to a team of his choice, at a time of his choosing, after a discussion with the club.
Instead, he has been shipped off to Napoli on loan with as little consultation as they might give a youngster whom they had decided would never make it.
“I thought that I deserved better than that,” wrote Reina, the disappointment obvious, “even though I understand that difficult decisions have to be taken in football.”
Of course, football is a heartless place and clubs cannot afford to treat their big players with too much deference. When Simon Mignolet signed from Sunderland the only question was under which circumstances Reina would leave this summer. As it happens, those circumstances were not to his taste, and this is a more efficient outcome than his collecting his salary while sitting on the bench for the next season.
But everyone knows about ‘the Liverpool way’, and this is not it. This is meant to be a club where individuals were respected, especially those who had earned it on the pitch. Honest conversation was always meant to be the solution, and difficult divorces managed in a calm and dignified way, but Reina found himself surprised and rather put out when Liverpool decided to move him to Italy.
It raises questions, not for the first time, about the man-management at Anfield these days. It may well grow out of the American owners, coming from a sporting culture where players are traded at the whim of the owners without much of a say for themselves.
Or perhaps it comes from elsewhere at the club. Brendan Rodgers has his own ways of motivating players but it is not clear that they all respond well to him. Early last season Stewart Downing was publicly criticised by the new manager and was not delighted by it.
“I was obviously upset. I always try to give my best," said Downing last October when Rodgers had questioned his commitment. "You’ll have to ask the manager what he meant by his quotes. I would have preferred it obviously if it was private.”
Nuri Sahin, the Turkish midfielder signed on loan from Real Madrid but who never fully settled in his six months at Anfield, doubted the communication skills of Rodgers, and blamed them for his failure to settle.
“I did not fail at Liverpool,” Sahin insisted. “Brendan Rodgers wanted me to play as a number 10. But I do not play behind the strikers. I talked to him and asked him why he was playing me there. It is not my real position. The coach could not answer me. Thank God I have left Brendan Rodgers.”
Reina has left too, with his own distaste at the new regime.