Last season, Napoli were able to take advantage of Pepe Reina's unrest at Liverpool and signed him on a one-year loan with an eye at potentially bringing in the veteran netminder on a permanent deal this summer. It's been clear for almost a year now that Reina doesn't have a Liverpool future after talking his way out of the club, and many assumed that he would sign on to stay in Naples with his favorite manager.
That hasn't seemed like such a clear-cut thing for awhile now, though. After a brilliant start to the season, Reina reverted to the same mediocre, mistake-laden form that had plagued him for much of his last three seasons at Liverpool. He was actually outplayed by Rafael Cabral for a stretch before the Brazilian keeper went down with his ACL injury, and with Reina's high wages justifying such a deal was growing more difficult.
Since the season ended, that uncertainty has exploded in to full-on doubt, with several accounts claiming that Reina would not accept a reduction on his wages (believed to be in the area of €115,000 per week or €6 million per year). That's lead to a reported breakdown in negotiations, with Reina sounding uncertain at best as to his future, and now Rafa Benitez himself speaking decidedly negative terms about any potential deal.
Pepe has two years left on his contract at Liverpool. He has to go back and he’ll stay there. We can’t afford Pepe’s wages," Rafa told the English media yesterday. "The Premier League is a very big league and, in Serie A, we don’t pay big wages like in England. He will have to fight for his position at Liverpool."
That's about as clear as it gets: don't expect Reina to be in Naples next season unless he accepts a drastic wage cut. That's almost certainly not happening, so I suppose it's time to move on.
Parts of the Italian media are acting as though this is a disaster for Napoli, but it's anything but. It frees up a chunk of the wage bill (Napoli were paying around half of Reina's wages last season) that they can use for another quality player or two, and frees up whatever chunk of the transfer budget was reserved for his transfer fee. With the wizardry Riccardo Bigon has been working, that can only be a good thing.
With Rafael Cabral ahead of schedule on his injury recovery and Mariano Andujar coming in to back him up, Napoli are more than fine at goalkeeper. This isn't going to lead to some disastrous falloff for the club next year as some are espousing, because frankly Reina wasn't that critical to the club, especially after November when his form fell apart.
So what's next for Reina? He certainly can't stay at Liverpool, because Simon Mignolet is the clear starter there, and his wages are far too high to be a backup (not that he'd accept being a backup). With Barcelona out of the picture, there's not another clear fit for him. Atletico Madrid are the only clear fit, but that's only if they can't get Thibaut Courtouis on loan again. AS Monaco loves to overpay aging players who are on the decline, but there's been no indication of interest from either side on that front.
No matter what happens, Napoli fans should just be glad that this saga is basically over. It's time to move on, and enjoy the growth of Rafael Cabral, who looks like he could be one of the world's best goalkeepers in a few years.