LIVERPOOL fans will be desperately hoping Pepe Reina doesn’t get a taste for the Emirates Stadium during tomorrow’s mouthwatering clash with Arsenal.
If Arsene Wenger has his way, the Reds goalkeeper will be a regular sight in North London next season.
Liverpool are no strangers to summer transfer sagas and the speculation about Reina is already starting to grow.
The Spaniard is a man in demand. Both Manchester United and Arsenal will be in the market for a top class shot-stopper when the transfer window opens. There will also be offers coming in from his homeland.
Of course moving to Old Trafford would be unthinkable for a player who has clocked up over 300 appearances for Liverpool during nearly six years of unstinting service.
But Arsenal are a very different proposition. Wenger tried and failed to snap up Reina last year and since then his need for a keeper has only increased.
The Gunners’ problems in that area were underlined by Wenger having to call 41-year-old Jens Lehmann out of retirement.
Reina has a massive decision to make. He turns 29 this summer and is reaching the peak of his powers.
If he stays at Anfield he will be facing a third successive season plying his trade outside of the Champions League.
But if he goes he would be turning his back on an exciting new chapter in Liverpool’s history under Kenny Dalglish.
Reina is the last of the high profile Spaniards who Rafa Benitez built his Liverpool dynasty around. Having seen compatriots Xabi Alonso and Fernando Torres move on, it would only be natural for him to ponder his own future.
However, his best friend Torres has already discovered to his cost that the grass isn’t always greener elsewhere.
When Torres left it was a kick in the teeth for supporters, angered by the timing of his transfer request and his choice of destination.
The past three months have proved Torres wasn’t the great loss fans feared. In his place Luis Suarez and Andy Carroll have shone and you won’t find anyone arguing with the fact that Liverpool are now a more potent force.
Torres’ goals were replaceable but Reina’s boots would be much more difficult to fill.
For a start he’s the most consistent keeper in the Premier League. He’s broken a host of club records and deserves to be ranked in the same bracket as the legendary Ray Clemence.
But Reina, who cost £6million from Villarreal in 2005, offers so much more than that. The third longest serving current Reds player has worn the armband in the absence of Jamie Carragher and Steven Gerrard. Even when he’s not skipper, he’s a leader in the dressing room.
Team-mates like and respect him and he helps bring out the best in those around him.
Reina, who is under contract until 2016, was convinced to stay last summer because he was promised better days lay ahead.
Instead Liverpool went into freefall over the six months that followed before Dalglish picked up the pieces.
Reina warned last month that his loyalty is dependent on the club matching his own ambition.
“I would never say ‘I’m never going’ because even I don’t know that,” he said.
“I’m happy but I won’t swear eternal love to anyone.
“It depends how the season finishes. It depends above all on the ambition of the owners in building a better team.
“We used to fight to be among the top teams and be in the Champions League. Sadly that’s not the case now. I want to win titles.”
Liverpool are resurgent under Dalglish but key to that gathering pace is convincing Reina to stay put.
The keeper is hungry for silverware and rightly so after a barren five years.
Fans can only hope owners Fenway Sports Group deliver this summer and Reina decides he’s able to achieve his dreams without heading elsewhere.
The Reds just need Reina to be patient for a while longer.