In the penultimate article of the series, Michael Baddeley looks at more of his favourite summer transfers. This time Spanish duo Pepe Reina and Xabi Alonso feature.
Pepe Reina – £6 million
We’d only just really got over Dudek’s goalkeeping heroics in Istanbul and it seemed he was to be replaced already. July 4th, 2005 Liverpool signed Spanish keeper Jose Manuel Reina, better known as Pepe Reina and at the time he was seen as the best keeper in La Liga in the 2004/05 season. Taking this into account the £6 million fee seemed to be rather cheap.
His first season was a success for both the team and Reina on a personal level. He went from 29th October to 28th December without conceding in the league, keeping eight clean sheets, which ended up being a club record number of consecutive clean sheets.
He made his 50th appearance in his first season and ended up breaking another club record, this time it was for conceding the fewest goals by a keeper in their first 50 games. Overall, he kept 20 clean sheets in his first season and won the Premier League’s Golden Glove. He ended the season by carrying on his penalty saving antics he showed at Villarreal by saving three out of the four penalties he faced in the 2006 FA Cup win against West Ham.
His second season started off horrendously, that horrendous performance in the 3-0 defeat to Everton being one. But this was only a minor blip in form. He more than played his part in a run to the Champions League final in 2007. A number of superb saves in the semi-final first leg at Stamford Bridge and then saving two out of three Chelsea kicks in the second leg. He also received a second consecutive Golden Glove award.
In February 2008, he became the quickest keeper in Liverpool history to reach a half century of clean sheets in only his 92nd league appearance. A third consecutive Golden Glove award would follow to after keeping 18 clean sheets in his third season.
Fifth season in, fourth Golden Glove award. This time he tied with Chelsea keeper Petr Cech with 17 clean sheets. It was becoming quite a trend. He would also be named Liverpool’s player of the season with a massive 75% of the vote. After this there wasn’t really much the club could celebrate. Reina, on a personal level, could though.
He captained Liverpool a few times in the 2010-11 season and also reached his 100th clean sheet in 198 league games. The following season he would break the club record for number of clean sheets held and then won only his second major honour when helping Liverpool beat Cardiff City on penalties in 2012.
Looking back at Pepe’s career at the club then I’m sure he can be very proud. A loyal player who always gave his all for the cause of the team, he broke numerous records and had a very strong bond with the fans. A definite legend in my opinion and easily in the top five transfers of modern times.
Xabi Alonso – £10.7 million
Alonso arrived from Real Sociedad on the same day his fellow Spaniard Luis Garcia joined from Barcelona. It was the first signing that marked the beginning of the ‘Rafa Revolution’ in my opinion. A statement of intent on how Rafa wanted to stamp his own authority on the club. A player that would offer skill more than strength but would happily do the dirty work if needed. He had everything a midfielder required.
We saw his ability first in an away game at Fulham. Alonso come on at half-time, Liverpool were 2-0 down to the London outfit and something needed changing. Xabi changed it for sure. He revived the team and helped lead us to a 2-4 win. He pulled the strings from midfield, his passing was a joy to behold and to top it off he scored a phenomenal free kick.
He just kicked on from there. He was really settling down in England. His first season was brilliant and was topped off at on extraordinary night in Istanbul. In fact, if it wasn’t for his persistence and chasing the ball in after the penalty miss he never would have smashed in the rebound to take the game to 3-3. In 2006 he scored two phenomenal goals in the FA Cup third round, one from 45 yards and another from in his own half. He also played a part in the ‘Gerrard final’ and picked up his second major honour and first FA Cup winners medal.
He somehow managed to score from his own half again vs Newcastle in 2006, this time lobbing keeper Steve Harper from 70-yards-out. The following season would start off brilliantly for him. Gerrard being injured meant that he was played in a more advanced role. It didn’t take him long to adapt though, he thrived in the role and scored twice against Derby. Unfortunately a metatarsal injury kept him out.
When he returned from injury he faced competition from Lucas and Mascherano but that didn’t bother him. His quality was too much and he faced no problems getting back into the side. He was caught up in a bizarre transfer saga in Summer 2008. Liverpool were pursuing English international Gareth Barry. Nothing happened but the pass master was left unsettled.
A year later he was to move on from Anfield. Many suggested that this move was due to what happened the previous summer. If so then it was by far the worst piece of transfer business the club ever tried. We didn’t even get him but Barry didn’t even come close to Alonso’s talent.
Alonso was my third favourite transfer of modern times. He might not have had the skill like Suarez, but the man oozed class. He was just a joy to watch, he was so calm on the ball, his passing was second too none & he was one third of the best midfield I’ve ever seen at Liverpool. Even Gerrard was devastated at his departure and if Mr. Liverpool is devastated then it was obviously a bad choice.