James Lawton: Welcome to the world of Liverpool goalkeeper Pepe Reina - where loyalty is fine as long as it works for you - News & Comment - Football - The Independent

James Lawton: Welcome to the world of Liverpool goalkeeper Pepe Reina - where loyalty is fine as long as it works for you

Liverpool suspect you are no longer worth £110,000 a week on the bench

Let's get this straight, Pepe. If Barcelona had confirmed the rumour of their interest so hungrily seized upon by you and your agent you would have beaten your pal Luis Suarez out of Anfield faster than Speedy Gonzales.

However, the rumour was false, just another little mutation of the truth on the football grapevine, so now you are indignant that Liverpool are shipping you out to Napoli and your favourite manager Rafa Benitez on no better grounds than their suspicion that you are no longer worth £110,000 a week sitting on the bench. You have to understand we have taken most of the foregoing as read from the plaintive words of your own website.

The trouble is, hombre, there is only so much of this self-serving, platitudinous, ersatz soul-baring that can be absorbed in any one football silly season.

Everyone, and surely not least the Liverpool fans who have been put so extensively through the emotional wringer by Suarez, now knows the score.

Loyalty is fine as long as it works for you. Then, when it is no longer the underpinning of your well-upholstered hero's existence, it can go the way of Suarez's contract, which of course has three years to run. It can be booted out of play.

This was Reina's take on the Suarez situation when he was apparently being driven from Liverpool – and England! – by the relentless machinations of the media: "Because of his situation and because of his treatment by the media, it would have been very difficult for any player, not just Luis, to stay strong and be happy to stay.

"I would like for Luis to stay at Liverpool but I understand if he is leaving for a bigger club. When I say bigger I don't mean as a club, I mean challenging for titles, playing in the Champions League and competing with the best. Hopefully, he will stay at Liverpool for many years but I would understand if the best offer comes, for him and the club, for him to go."

Translation: there is only one meaningful relationship in football and it has nothing to with old-fashioned notions like the repaying of debts and the reward of trust.

What counts, and this alone, is whether you are either worth the current price of your hire or if there is someone out there ready to hike it up another whole stratum above the dreams of those who ultimately pay the bills, the people who go on the terraces and invest in TV boxes and like to believe that they are part of the whole enriching experience.

Pepe Reina has, no doubt, been a fine goalkeeper for Liverpool but he has not, demonstrably, been himself over the last season or so. He no longer commands the respect of a man on top of his game, hence manager Brendan Rodgers' £9m investment in Sunderland's flying Belgian Simon Mignolet.

The core of Reina's website outpouring reminds us vividly once more of the perspective of an ageing pro who, with the best of his game clearly gone, is still costing his club more than £4m a year.

Reina: "I thought I deserved better even though I understand difficult decisions have to be taken in football. A lot has been made about me informing the club that if an offer came in from Barcelona I would have liked them to consider it.

"But I have also spoken to the club about extending my contract if the offer was not made. I told the manager that Barcelona would only be an option for me if the opportunity arrived, like the rumours said it would, as it would be a chance for me to go home. When it didn't I was happy to fight for my place so I was surprised Liverpool decided it was in the club's interests to send me to Napoli instead."

Translation: I had a best-case scenario, a glorious return to Spain and the great Barça, another workable one of stretching out my contract at Anfield, which is of course the moon and the stars of football, at least this side of the Nou Camp, and then there was this third one which Liverpool happened to select.

It was to send him to Napoli without the chance of an emotional parting from Anfield and the fans who have celebrated him for so long.

Hard though it may seem, there is a certain difficulty in accepting Reina's thesis that he had deserved a lot better than this. Ever since he arrived at Anfield eight years ago, Reina has been warmly appreciated and paid extremely handsomely. He is a professional in a world where mere sentiment was burnt off some time ago. At some point, somewhere the fantasy life has to end. That in Reina's case this might be Napoli is maybe not the most pressing reason for tears.

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