Reina will push Neuer to be his best
A few thousand people showed up for Bayern Munich's open training session on Tuesday in Portland, Oregon, ahead of their match against the MLS All-Stars on Wednesday night. Most of that crowd was unaware of the big news: The Bavarians were about to agree to a deal with Liverpool for the transfer of Pepe Reina.
On loan at Napoli last season after failing to impress Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers, the 31-year-old is set to move for a reported fee of 2 million euros.
"The player will come to Munich in the next few days," Karl-Heinz Rummenigge remarked, "for a medical examination and to sign his contract."
Reina began his career at Barcelona but couldn't establish himself at the Camp Nou, moving to Villareal for three seasons before joining Liverpool. In his time at Anfield, he secured the FA Cup, League Cup and European Super Cup. He's now set to play second fiddle to Manuel Neuer, as the Bavarian club has sought out a backup -- perhaps realising that Tom Starke is not quite adequate.
Lukas Raeder, Bayern Munich's youth-team keeper last season -- and third choice in the senior squad -- forced a move to Portuguese outfit Vitoria Setubal this summer, citing a desire for regular playing time.
The club was reportedly in for Keylor Navas to fill the role Reina will now occupy, but that was before the Costa Rican keeper signed with Real Madrid for 10 million euros. Navas, rightly, saw a brighter future with his new employer than he did in Germany.
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Reina's arrival at Bayern gives Neuer some genuine competition. The German keeper is widely regarded as the best in the world, but having the Spanish international peering over his shoulder will push Neuer to continue to play at his best.
Bayern Munich can afford Reina, but there is an expectation that he will have to take a pay cut -- his Liverpool contract was reported to net him 100,000 pounds a week -- as the Spanish keeper will struggle to get minutes knowing who is ahead of him.
But the question remains: How long can he be pleased with sitting on the bench? Barring an extraordinary injury, Neuer is certainly not going anywhere. In his early 30s, Reina still has a lot left in the tank. It will be up to Pep Guardiola to manage his playing time and expectations going forward.
"Pepe Reina was eager to come to Bayern Munich," Rummenigge said, "He wanted to embark on this adventure even though he knows that, in Neuer, he has a keeper in front of him who, if nothing changes, will always remain the No. 1."
Susie Schaaf is longtime blogger for ESPN. She co-hosts the only English-speaking Bayern Munich podcast @Rekord_Pod and talks Bundesliga on BBC World Service and SiriusXM FC. Follow her on Twitter @fussballsusie.