For the various issues Liverpool have to address with their squad, goalkeeper wouldn’t appear to be the most pressing. Pepe Reina, despite not being what he was a few years ago, is still a good quality option. Good enough to be heavily linked to Barcelona even. Considering that they haven’t done anything about their possible left back weakness or sorting out a quality centre back, it’s surprising that they are prioritising a goalkeeper. Simon Mignolet is a top class goalkeeper; last season he was in the top five in the league and stood head and shoulders above his Sunderland teammates, but is he that much better than Reina in order to justify a £10m outlay?
The answer to that would only be obvious if they have a sale for Reina in mind. A sale that as yet, is remaining fairly secretive. What is unclear at the moment is where he could go. Barcelona need a replacement for Victor Valdes but not until next summer and Real Madrid have two quality keepers. Elsewhere in La Liga, Atletico Madrid have a gap now that Thibaut Courtois is temporarily back at Chelsea. However, unless Mourinho chooses him as first choice it’s unlikely he won’t be back in Madrid. Real Sociedad are in the Champions League and could be an interesting option. They could stand to upgrade in goal but are unlikely to have £6-8m to spend. The same could be said of Valencia or Sevilla who are both short of money. So La Liga is probably out of the question unless Liverpool drop the price a lot.
Outside of Spain there are some possible destinations. The main one is Napoli, and this is where Reina could go. With Rafa Benitez having been appointed and the incumbent Morgan De Sanctis being 36 years old, they have a weakness. They have some money and may have a lot more if they sell Edinson Cavani and also offer Reina Champions League competition. AC Milan could also be a good spot for him as they have a weakness between the sticks. In England the obvious option is Arsenal who are surely on the lookout for a goalkeeper, particularly if one is on sale. In fact, it seemed as if Mignolet would go to them rather than Liverpool at one stage. The final option will be Monaco who should not be discounted. They have all the money they need and could become a major club in the next few years.
Liverpool should be able to get £6m for Reina despite him being 30 years old. There are enough clubs who need a keeper and will feel they can justify it so they won’t be stuck with both. But that means Liverpool are down £4m in order to swap Reina for Mignolet. And that is being done before addressing any other weaknesses. Is he worth it?
Mignolet has made his name as an exemplary shot stopper but last season showed much improved penalty box command. One area Liverpool were vulnerable last season defensively was against the ball in the air. For all his qualities Reina is not the most commanding in the air or with his fists. Mignolet is a different proposition. He is big and authoritative, overcoming some really poor defenders at Sunderland to record a lot of clean sheets. If Rodgers wants ball playing defenders he needs a keeper who can dominate the box, and that is what Mignolet does. He is also very quick coming off his line to shut down shooting angles and helping after defenders make mistakes, something he’ll encounter behind the current Liverpool back four. His distribution from hand is excellent but his kicking isn’t great. He won’t have the variety of distribution with ball at feet as Reina.
So overall then, assuming one of the logical destinations outlined above make the move for Reina Liverpool will have spent about £4m for Mignolet. He’s five years younger than Reina and has better authority against the aerial ball. It will prove worthwhile but only if they sign a proper central defender. It’s a good move but something of a luxury one.