Pepe Reina: Back in the Premier League and ready to make a difference

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Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson may well have conjured up some old memories for Reds fans with his assist and celebration in the 2-0 win over Manchester United.

Against the same opposition at Anfield in 2009, Pepe Reina made a near identical contribution, launching the ball up the field to set up David N'Gog and seal the win by the same scoreline. A video later released on Liverpool's official Twitter account showed the remarkable similarities between the two goals.

For Liverpool supporters, it will have brought back a wave of good memories from the time Reina spent at the club. He became part of Liverpool's heart and soul during Rafa Benitez's spell in charge at Anfield, helping the club win the UEFA Super Cup in 2005, the FA Cup in 2006, and the League Cup in 2012.

It was his penalty heroics in the FA Cup triumph against West Ham at the Millennium Stadium that won Reina the hearts of Liverpool fans, and although his performances dipped at the tail-end of his time at Anfield, he remains a hugely popular figure on Merseyside.

Now Reina finds himself back in the Premier League, having completed a loan move to Aston Villa. The injury to Tom Heaton left Villa in desperate need of a quick replacement, and manager Dean Smith will have been delighted to bring in a goalkeeper as experienced as Reina.

As well as experience, the Spaniard brings major leadership qualities to the side – he has been a big character at every club he's been at, especially Liverpool and the Spanish national side.

Now 37 years old, Reina has had a fine career and played for some of the biggest teams in the world. He spent a season on loan at Napoli while still a Liverpool player before moving to Bayern Munich in 2014.

After one season at the German club, he went back to Napoli where he established himself as the club's number one for three further seasons, before switching to AC Milan in 2018.

The loan move to Aston Villa gives him a chance to prove himself to English football fans once again. By the time his Liverpool career came to an end, Reina was a shadow of the one-time clean sheet machine that dominated the Anfield goal in the mid-to-late 2000s.

More and more mistakes had crept into his game, and Brendan Rodgers decided that Simon Mignolet was the goalkeeper to take the club forward. Now he has the chance to show that he can still mix it with the best in England's top tier.

Villa are in a relegation dogfight, with the latest English Premier League relegation odds suggesting they are one of the favourites for the drop. He's played the role of backup goalkeeper at AC Milan, and so a move to one of the Premier League's bottom-half strugglers represents Reina being thrown in at the deep end somewhat.

But given his qualities as a shot-stopper, Reina should not experience too many teething problems at the Midlands club. In many ways, facing plenty of shots and being called into action on a regular basis is better for a goalkeeper that hasn't played much football. It means there will be no periods where Reina has an excuse to let his concentration levels drop.

English fans know all about the experience and nous he will bring to this Villa team. With the margins so fine at the highest level, having a replacement of Reina's ilk to replace the stricken Heaton could make all the difference when push comes to shove at the bottom end of the Premier League table. While most will think of past glories when talking about Reina, the Spaniard has a chance to prove that he can still be the man for the present.

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