Pepe Reina has, unquestionably, had a fantastic career. At Villarreal, at Liverpool, and at Napoli, he has played at an extraordinary level, setting a high standard of quality and at times winning matches on his own. As he turns 34 years old, however, Reina has shown more and more glimpses that the end of his career as an effective, high-level goalkeeper is near — and Napoli need to move quickly to find his replacement, and they need to sign him today.
It hurts to say this on Reina’s birthday, but the simple fact is that at this point, Reina cannot reliably be the goalkeeper Napoli need him to be. We’ve already seen it this season in just two matches — of the four goals Napoli have given up, Reina could and should have saved three of them, and would have even as recently as last season. Now, though, his reactions are a beat slow, his legs don’t have the strength and quickness to get him over to the ball like they once did, and that’s hurting the club.
With the Champions League looming — well, that’s not OK. If Napoli are going to spend money to get one more player on top of the ones they’ve already been linked to and agreed with, it has to be a goalkeeper, and not just one for the future. They need someone who can push Reina for minutes right now.
Who that can be is tough to see, because not a lot of goalkeepers are on the market right now and would be hard to pry out. They had been working on a deal to get Marco Sportiello from Atalanta, who could have been a good option. He’s young, but played well under difficult circumstances, playing behind poor defenses the last couple of years for Atalanta. Maybe he’s ready for the Champions League, maybe not, but with him and Reina working together, improving each other, and pushing each other, it could have been the perfect solution.
But with Atalanta electing to keep Sportiello for another season, Napoli’s options aren’t terribly clear. Mattia Perin would be an interesting choice, but Genoa are unlikely to sell him. Looking around Europe, there aren’t really any other keepers of a similar profile — good enough to push Reina, but young enough to improve and be worth the investment — who seem like they could be dislodged from their clubs.
Despite that, though, Napoli have to try. If not to sign that player now, to lay the groundwork for a January transfer. Because Reina is getting older. He’s getting slower. He’s getting less reliable. Napoli have done a good job of building for the future at most every position the last couple of years — every position but one. And they have to fix that before it bites them squarely in the ass.