Positive influence Reina the perfect Villa pick-me-up
Aston Villa have been busy with comings and goings this month, but their most astute piece of business could turn out to be the capture of Pepe Reina.
The experienced goalkeeper was drafted in by boss Dean Smith after first-choice Tom Heaton was ruled out for the rest of the campaign, while back-up Jed Steer was also crocked by an Achilles injury.
Smith knew he needed a dependable figure between the sticks for the inevitable relegation scrap and his move for former Liverpool stopper Reina seems like a sound choice.
The Spaniard is now 37, admittedly, but plenty of top keepers have gone on to play regularly into their late 30s in the Premier League in the past and Reina, who has represented a host of top clubs, including Napoli, Bayern Munich and AC Milan, has kept himself in good shape.
Reina has had to usually bide his time on the bench in the latter part of his career, serving as a reliable back-up in Germany and Italy, but he’s exactly the sort of positive character who can have a big influence on the Villa squad when it matters most.
A natural leader, Reina will engender a good spirit in the camp and could be just the ‘pick-me-up’ the Midlanders need with a tough four months looming as they look to stay in the top flight.
This is the man who was lauded for his behind-the-scenes influence during Spain’s hugely successful period between 2008 and 2012. Reina was a regular in the squad back then, but usually only as a reserve keeper, and he was often spoke about as the one who kept spirits high in the dressing room and was usually front and central amid La Roja’s celebrations as they won the Euros, twice, and the World Cup in 2010.
Such is his positive influence, he was even named in his country’s 2018 World Cup squad at the age of 36 as third-choice behind David De Gea and Kepa, and several former team-mates have taken time out to praise the lively Spaniard, who will stay with Villa until the end of the season.
It may be a happy coincidence but since Reina has joined Villa, Smith’s side have picked up a vital draw at Brighton and they then secured more points from a losing position when dramatically beating fellow strugglers Watford 2-1 at a raucous Villa Park on Tuesday.
In both games Reina played his part with some outstanding saves and he’s slotted straight back into life in England without much fuss. A veteran of 285 Premier League games for Liverpool between 2005 and 2014, Reina knows all about the rigours of the top flight.
His influence on and off the pitch should be vital and, if he helps keep Villa up, he could turn out to be the most important signing the club make all year.