Brendan Rodgers expects Pepe Reina to remain at Liverpool next season.
The Spanish goalkeeper moved to Anfield in the summer of 2005, when Rafael Benitez signed him from Villarreal in a £6million deal. He has since gone on to establish himself as one of the best shot-stoppers in England, making a total of 387 appearances for the Reds.
Although the 30-year-old still has three years remaining on his contract, he has been tipped to join Barcelona during the summer when Victor Valdes, their current number one, will be in the final year of his deal. The Camp Nou veteran has decided against extending his stay at his one and only senior club, with speculation suggesting he could be bound for England next season.
Reina, who developed through the youth system at Barca and made 30 league appearances for their first team before heading to El Madrigal in 2002, is seen by many as the ideal replacement. However, Liverpool boss Rodgers has no intention of letting the Madrid-born player leave.
“I think a lot of the stuff this year has just been based on the speculation that Valdes is going,” he said. “I am counting on him for next season, yes. He’s never been unsettled and our relationship is very strong. Pepe and I speak a lot. He’s a good man and I’ve real respect for him.
“I see him as someone who is going to be here. He is 30 years of age and is someone who looks after his body. The sports science team this year have worked really well with him. I think he’s been outstanding and had great focus and hopefully that will continue for us.”
Reina helped the Merseyside club win the FA Cup and UEFA Super Cup during his debut campaign, and last term enjoyed success in the League Cup final against Cardiff City. On a personal level, he has won the Premier League Golden Glove award for most clean sheets in a season on three occasions, and in 2010 he was named as Liverpool’s Player of the Season.
Rodgers was said to be interested in Jack Butland during the winter window, but lost out to Stoke City who signed him for a reported £4million. Had he succeeded in landing the young England goalkeeper he may have been in a position to listen to offers for Reina, but as things stand, his only alternatives to the Spaniard are Brad Jones, who has featured in seven league matches this season, and Hungarian Peter Gulacsi, who had a loan spell at Hull City last term.
Neither is expected to become a long-term number one at Anfield, so if they are to cash in on Reina, it is certain they would enter the window for a replacement.