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Reina, Liverpool and Fan Loyalty



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Yesterday, an interview of Liverpool’s talented goalkeeper Pepe Reina was published by Sid Lowe in the guardian, one in which Pepe couldn’t be said to have been much less then honest about his future at Anfield.

‘So could Reina find himself in a situation in which he, like Torres, felt “obliged” to depart? “I hope not. But I would never say: ‘I’m never going,’ because even I don’t know that. It depends on how this season finishes, on how competitive we can be, on …” There is a pause as he searches for the right word. “The ambition. It depends, above all, on the ambition of the owners in building a better team; hopefully, they will be generous in their efforts but we know the economic reality.”‘

Naturally, Liverpool fans should be worried. One by one, the team that built the foundations for an excellent 08-09 team have gone, and Pepe Reina, king of keepers in springing counter attacks, is the last remaining of those that came to join Rafael Benitez’ undermined revolution at Liverpool.

But then you hear people questioning Pepe Reina’s loyalty, and that is where I stop. Because loyalty as a rule is massively taken for granted by fans. Fans expect players who they like to stay at the club forever, to help that club win trophies. They expect that player to become a club legend and to never be goaded into joining another team for money or trophies. It is one that will forever give fans pangs of sorrow and resentment towards players who leave because ultimately, why should a majority of players be that loyal? Why should a player give his entire career to a club if he has better opportunities elsewhere? It isn’t as if Pepe Reina grew up a Liverpool fan living in Spain, (although as of now I cannot find out who his boyhood club were.) and while he obviously appreciates the fans and he respects the club, and he has helped this club in many great moments, even he may well move on.

Pepe Reina: Will always have been an excellent servant to Liverpool football club, regardless of wheather he moves away or not.

The problem for all football players, and especially the very best ones is that they aspire to win things. Whether Reina can do that with Liverpool, being as it is a club partially through transformation, is questionable. Of course there will be fans who say he gets considerable wage packet to play for Liverpool – fair enough. But would he not get the same elsewhere? Would he not have a greater chance of winning trophies in the coming years with Arsenal, or Barcelona?
And staying at one club your entire career is an interesting prospect and all, but would a player like Pepe be happy, after working all his life to be one of the very best goal keepers in the world, be happy with an FA cup? Obviously, Liverpool have the potential to win more in coming seasons, as they rebuild, but more trophies could well beckon elsewhere. More opportunity for Pepe to staple himself as among the very best in the world. Something which footballers with the drive and ambition and determination it has taken for them to even get to the premier league, prize most of all.

Yes, there are players with undying loyalty. Alan Shearer, who will forever be a Geordie legend. Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Gary Neville for United. Steven Gerrard, Jamie Carragher, Raul, give and gave their clubs their souls and hearts. But this, apparently, is what fans take for granted. These players are the exceptions, and not the rule. They should not be the post by which to measure the like of Reina, who lets not forget, has now given close to six years of his career to Liverpool football club. Especially since players like the Mancunian stalwarts and Raul were at consistently successful clubs. If either of those clubs had fallen on hard times, would they have stayed? Would Gerrard stay at Liverpool, if he were in his prime now?

Alan Shearer: Newcastle legend for all time. The exception(al), not the rule.

Of course this doesn’t just apply to Liverpool fans, this applies to all fans. We expect the very best from players, but only in our tinted eyes. If they do not fulfill those standards we brand them disloyal. Rarely, is there a grey area. Gareth Barry, having spent years and years at Villa, was branded disloyal. Rooney, having spent nearly seven years at United, has been branded disloyal. Torres was branded disloyal, after giving three and a half years of his career prime to Liverpool. (Although being a Liverpool fan, it wasn’t the leaving that sucked. it was the transfer request with four days of the transfer window to go, so he could go to Chelsea, leaving us little time to replace him, that grated.)

Football shouldn’t work like this. Players for the most part give themselves and everything they have to their club, regardless of who it is, but if a bigger club turns their head, then that is ambition to be the very best, a good attribute that should apply to all people, in portions at least. After all, if you quit a job for a better one, you would not want your old job mates to be booing you of the premises. Ambition, is a fact of life. Be happy, be ecstatic for those players that do give their loyalty undying to a club, but don’t judge those that don’t. Pepe Reina remember, came to Liverpool in the first place for a price. If anything, we should appreciate the stalwarts of our club all the more, and not let other players like Pepe leave with bitter eyes.

To conclude, I’ll quote a poster called Gedredz from the official Liverpool FC forum, in the aftermath of the above Reina interview.

”I’ve always thought it odd that people say they ‘love’ players.

Take Torres for example, what people loved was watching him express his excellent football ability, they rarely heard him speak and when they did he seemed like a bit of a numbskull. A few carefully scripted quotes from his pr team had us eating out of his hand.

Why do we not love Jova for example the same way? We know as much about him personally and his quotes were just as impressive when he came? Why? Because he didn’t bang in 33 goals this season.

City fans ‘love’ Tevez, a man who has the brain power of a small bird and a man who expresses a desire to leave every time that pea brain concentrates and formulates words. Why do they love him? He scores goals.

United fans ‘love’ Rooney? .. A man who held them to ransom to double his already obscene wages, a scouser (their arch rivals)with the personality of a chimp. What’s to love? The goals.

Fans need to draw a distinction between the player (generally a turnip) and his ability. We need to understand we love the performance and not the actor. If we could do this the world would be a saner place, with a lot less shirt burning.

A bit rude, and not my opinion, but you get the general point. If you decide to leave Pepe, then good luck. Thank you for the good times and those brillant penalty shoot outs against West Ham and Chelsea, and for the amazing celebrations.

Just please don’t go to United.

Also see: Liverpool v Manchester United preview.