The year was 1966. Two magnates stemming from the beautiful game would embark upon a journey that would make them heroes for eternity. A journey where each milestone was a stepping stone to success and these two fine goalkeepers sure saw the sun rising on their careers ai??i?? Miguel Reina Santos and Ray Clemence. Miguel was born in the moderately sized town of Cordoba in Spain in 1946. He began his career playing for Cordoba CF but then crossed the border to CataluAi??a after a couple of seasons where he featured in 111 appearances winning silverware for much of the early 70ai??i??s. In 1973, he signed on for rivals Atletico Madrid and further extended his illustrious career before retiring in 1980. Ray Clemence, the Skegness born shot-stopper, was signed from Scunthorpe for Liverpool for a mere 18,000 pounds. He was simply worth much more than that. The whole of Europe and the world saw the class that Clemence is as he was one of the lynchpins during Liverpoolai??i??s golden era of the 70ai??i??s. A man, who has missed just six games in his eleven year tenure at Anfield, won every single piece of silverware except the European Cup Winnersai??i?? Cup and who boasts of leadership, consistency, finesse and panache both on and off the field, Ray Clemence is, by far, the cream of the crop at Liverpool FC. But why are we talking about Miguel Reina Santos and Ray Clemence?

Pepe ai??i?? The Catalan

By now you might have guessed it ai??i?? Miguel Reina Santos is the father of Jose Manuel Reina Paez, the last representative from the Spanish Armada which served at Liverpool FC. At a time when Liverpoolai??i??s to-be-most-famous goalkeeper, Ray Clemenceai??i??s success stories were acquiring an ubiquitous taste, young Pepe Reina was trying to emulate his father who enjoyed his own share of success at Barcelona and Atletico Madrid.

Unlike his father, Reina did not start his playing career at Cordoba CF. Instead, at the age of 13, was made student of the famous La Masia academy. With the Catalan flavor added to his life, Reina grew up watching and studying the likes of Andoni Zubizaretta, Javier Urruticoechea and of course, his own father. The magic pot that La Masia is, it also presented Reina to the world as a top class talent with much promise, potential and someone who can have a bright future. After playing for the ai???Barcelona Bai??i?? side for about three years as the first choice keeper, Reina was finally called up for first team action by manager Serra Ferrer. Ferrer placed much faith in Reina and believed him to take over the reins at Camp Nou; but after getting fired from the club, there were very few who envisioned Reinaai??i??s name echoing in the annals of Barcelona greats. After just 30 appearances for the first team, he was loaned out to Villarreal FC in 2002.

Career at Villarreal ai??i?? First Glimpse of Success

With the hope that he will don the Barcelona shirt again someday, Pepe Reina was sent out on loan to the Yellow Submarines in 2002. Villarreal CF is a team that provides a second line of competition to the likes of Barcelona, Real Madrid and Valencia. The team had never qualified for the Champions League over their entire existence as a football club and manager Victor Munoz intended to change that during his time as club manager.

Reina was loaned for reasons of first team experience, which he got plenty at the El Madrigal. He was slowly developing a reputation as a focused and consistent performer who also had a good share of flair and enthusiasm in him too. Munoz came close to steering his team to Champions League football but never got there since he departed the club in 2003. And after a short but unsuccessful stint by his successor Benito Floro, the club instated Manuel Pellegrini as the man to wear the suit. At the end of his first season (2004/05), Pellegrini achieved what Victor Munoz had set out to achieve. Villarreal finished third in the table and consequently qualified for Champions League.

Reina – Making Waves At Villarreal

Amongst the roster that boasted the likes of Riquelme, Marcos Senna and Diego Forlan, Pepe Reina was a name now appended. Credit goes to him for over performing in his position and helping his side secure Champions League football for the first time. The Spanish international saved seven out of nine penalties for Villarreal in the 2004/05 season. His abilities were unfolding like a bird spreading its wings and this is where everybody wanted to know more about Pepe Reina. His maturity was on the upward curve and comprised of his aggression as well as his composure on the field. His abilities to command the defense, march orders from the back and quick vision when it came to ball distribution were coming together to turn him into a great player.

Liverpool Calling

While Reinaai??i??s goalkeeping was winning him praises all over Spain, back in England, Anfield had a keen ear for Spanish talent. Rafa Benitez had a fair share of Spain in his inventory but saw the need for a younger and promising goalkeeper to take over the gloves from Jerzy Dudek. He quickly sniffed the opportunity in bringing Reina to Liverpool. At a time when Liverpool had just won the Champions League and was looking on cruise control in the following campaign too, a move to Anfield was nothing but the right thing to do according to Pepe Reina. So in July 2005, Jose Manuel Reina put pen to paper in a six million pound move and was handed over the Number 25 jersey. It was never going to be easy ousting the clubai??i??s first choice keeper who had just won them the Champions League but the fact that Pepe overtook Dudek speaks volumes of how good he is.

Reina started making entries in Liverpoolai??i??s record books right from the beginning of his Reds career. By the end of December 2005, he set a new Premier League record for most clean sheets in a row (8), surpassing David Jamesai??i?? record of five. During the same period, he also broke Liverpoolai??i??s consecutive clean sheet record by earning 11 clean sheets to his name till Mineiro from Sao Paulo scored past him in the 2005 FIFA Club World Cup.

Reina vs Clemence

While setting new club records became a run-of-the-mill thing, Reina was slowly starting to catch up with the legendary Ray Clemence. On April 16, 2006, he set the record for the least goals conceded within the first fifty games (29) and hence going past Ray Clemence who held the record with 32 goals. Another one of Rayai??i??s records were broken in 2008 when Reina became the fastest goalkeeper in Liverpool history to secure fifty clean sheets. This number turned into hundred on December 6th, 2010 and Pepe is now the fastest player in Liverpool history to reach a century of clean sheets, going past Ray Clemence in 198 games to 217.

Ray had raised the bar even higher after the likes of Elisha Scott and Tommy Lawrence graced the greens for Liverpool. These are some really tough names to beat for any goalkeeper walking out with a Liverpool crest but Reinaai??i??s quality has given him the pace and the chance to reach and beat these records, maybe even in a shorter time frame.

Ray on Pepe:

“It’s nice to have records but they are there to be broken. You are setting targets for others to beat and Pepe has done that.

“Anyone who keeps that many clean sheets in so few games has proved himself to be top class.

“It’s not easy to keep clean sheets. Your concentration has to be spot on.”

“Pepe really is a world class goalkeeper and is still young. He has all the attributes a modern goalkeeper needs. He has great reflexes and is very brave.ai???

On a Lighter Note

Everybody has quirks. A lot of us are superstitious too. Reina has several superstitious quirks. Here are a few things he ai???has to doai??? on match-day:

ai???I get up and have a shower, put my suit on and then head out to the car to buy petrol that I usually donai??i??t need.ai???

“Six hours before kick-off at Anfield, and before I can even think about the game, I have to get to a petrol station.ai???

ai???After getting into the car, I turn the engine on and look at the fuel gauge.ai???

ai???It is almost full. I still need petrol, though, so I head to the same garage that I always go to when Liverpool are at home, a small filling station almost exactly halfway between my home and the stadium.ai???

ai???I get there, open the petrol cap and begin to refuel. I am only at the pump for 20 seconds or so before the tank is full, so I go in to pay. The cashier gives me a bit of a funny look.ai???

“To be fair, I cannot blame him. I have just pulled on to his forecourt, queued up for five minutes behind other motorists and all for A?8 worth of petrol, just so my tank is full to the brim.ai???

ai???He does not know it, but I do the same thing before every home game. It is one of countless rituals I have to perform to make sure I am in the right frame of mind to play for Liverpool.ai???

ai???When I get to Anfield, I always park in the same space ai??i?? bay number 39 in the car park in front of the Centenary Stand.ai???

Almost Called It Quits

You can never put a finger on the exact reason for this but a lot of foreign players and/or managers who arrive at Liverpool FC immediately fall in love with the club. After the likes of Garcia, Alonso and more recently, Benitez, Reina is one of them to confess his admiration for the club and city. He has been performing his duties with dedication, love and respect for Liverpool FC. However, it hasnai??i??t been easy for him to reach this stage.

In the current squad, Reina is the third longest serving Liverpool player after Jamie Carragher and Steven Gerrard. The six seasons spent so far have embroidered him into a top player, an honest leader, a Kop favourite and more of a complete individual. However, in 2010 when Liverpool FC was going through its worst phase and matters on and off the pitch were not looking grim but were also heralding the arrival of something no one was prepared for, Reina placed faith in the club when he was offered a contract extension. Promises were made but vanished into thin air and this didnai??i??t please Pepe. He realized the need to take care of his career for the sake of his family but on the contrary, was convinced by his wife to stay back. It was a decision that has now reaped its rewards.

As a goalkeeper, Reina is never about one particular quality. He is never only about reflexes or penalty saves or ball distribution. His quality is an amalgamation of everything that makes up a goalkeeper. He is indeed one of the best goalkeepers in the Premier League. You always wish for a certain striker or midfielder or a tricky winger to join Liverpool FC but when the transfer window opens, you donai??i??t even hope to see a new name wear the gloves for Liverpool isnai??i??t it? It is because Pepe is good. He is that good! He is nothing short of a hero for Liverpool FC and no matter what happens, he will always remain the Spanish Scouser.

We will leave you with this quote by another Liverpool legend John Aldridge on the famous Pepe Reina:

ai???He is a massive character ai??i?? the kind of which you donai??i??t get many of in football these days.

On the pitch, too, he is a leader. You see him now, and he organises and talks to his defence. There arenai??i??t many people who will shout at Jamie Carragher on a pitch, but Pepe will!ai???

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3 Responses to “THT Heroes ai??i?? Pepe Reina ai??i?? The Spanish Scouser From Liverpool”

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  1. Sri says:

    good article dude …. reina will always remain a world class keeper who will never get any recognition with the national squad cause of iker and valdes … that said i would not go on to call him a great too cause he has these ‘moments of madness’ way too often …. you mention the argument that reina has won the golden glove too thats cause when he did they had the colossus hyppia in defence and xabi to help out in mid … once those two left the pool defence has crumbled and even ‘superman’ reina cant do anything to help over the last few seasons …. on the other hand compare iker for real or valdes for barca they play most of the time behind a make shift defence and are way more consitent … so reina maybe a legend for the kop but i can think of a lot better keepers than him at present

  2. deepak says:

    great article…he’s a hero.
    just want him to save a penalty,its been so long.(if m nt wrong)

  3. Uday says:

    @Sri – Yes that is right. There might be better names that come to mind ahead of Reina. And that is the reason why I haven’t spoken about his international career here. Being Spain’s first choice goalkeeper in the same era as Iker and Valdes is not the easiest thing in the world. The focus here is what he brings to the table at Liverpool. And he brings a lot! Yes he does have his certain moments of madness but goalkeepers are one of the last set of players to mature in the game. He will be much better when he turns 30. Also, eccentricity is, after all, an attribute best suited for a goalkeeper right? :)