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Dads and Lads, Pepe...


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UEFA Champions Magazine 17 May 2008

Miguel and Pepe Reina are among Spain's greatest football families. Here, in conversation with Guillem Balagué, father and son reflect on their careers, the changing game and living up to a famous surname.




In his 16-year career, Miguel Reina twice won the Ricardo Zamora trophy awarded to La Liga's best keeper. In 1973 he moved to Atlético Madrid, and in 1974 the Rojiblancos reached the European Cup final against Bayern.


He is, unfairly, best remembered for the goal he conceded – a 35-yard strike from Georg Schwarzenbeck in the final seconds of extra-time. Atlético lost the replay 4-0. Pepe shares many of his father's experiences – defeat in a European Cup final, a spell as Barça No1, and an international career hindered by a great rival: José Ángel Iríbar for Miguel, Iker Casillas for Pepe.


A down-to-earth, direct man who doesn't mince his words, Reina Snr takes his football and life very seriously. In January, he suffered an angina attack and declared: "I'd like to thank publicly the Dexeus hospital in Barcelona for what they have done for me. They saved me."


Miguel, as a former la Liga keeper, what do you think of your son making history outside Spain?


Pepe's right up there, one of the three best keepers in the world. It might seem a bit boastful of me, but at my age, it's no problem for me to say it in public.


Do you suffer watching him on TV?


I suffer a fair amount, TV or no TV. In Athens, I was in the stadium and couldn't watch. I don't normally go to see Pepe play in person, and it would have been better to play in that game than to watch it. It's hard watching your son, especially when he plays in such an unforgiving position. You can play well for 90 minutes, have one c**k-up at the end and people only remember the c**k-up. Without going too far back, in the last Manchester United-Liverpool game Pepe made five or six good saves – but tried to punch a ball and cocked it up. Afterwards, everyone just sees the mistake.


Does criticism affect keepers more than outfield players?


When you play, you don't think about it. Criticism the following day can affect you, but you don't pay too much attention. There's no harsher judge than yourself.


Pepe was superb in the semi-finals last year...


It's phenomenal that for the first time in history a Spanish keeper has won the Golden Glove award – and in only his second season at Liverpool. But I always say that goalkeeping awards are won by teams, not one player. In Spain we focus on things of lesser importance.


What do you think of Anfield?


It's impressive. They have a different idea of football. The respect, the people, the knowledge of the fans are all completely different to what we're used to. I'd give money to play there. We should learn from their example in Spain.


You played in a European Cup final...


Yes, and if it weren't for that goal nobody would remember me, not even my own father! I was the unlucky one having to swallow the goalkeeper's poison. I've thought about it a lot. Everyone remembers that goal, but nobody remembers that it was the first of its kind I let in during the whole campaign. There were only 30 seconds to go and I made my first mistake. The replay was a disaster and we let in four. Bayern were basically the German national team that won the World Cup in 1974, and we let the big opportunity get away. At that time it was very difficult to reach a European Cup final. The semis against Celtic were extremely emotional, though. When we scored in the Manzanares in front of a capacity crowd… It was the best game I ever played in and fantastic to make the fans happy like that.


Football has changed a lot...


It's the same today as it was then. Rules have changed the keeper's role, but the basic position is the same. The main difference is you have to know how to play with your feet.


What strengths does a keeper need?


Really good positional sense, agility, anticipation of movement, speed and distance, bravery – and they must never be hesitant. Reflexes and technique are most vital.


In your day, did opponents study each other's history in taking penalties?


I remember one game against Real Madrid. We had studied how Pirri and Amancio took penalties, and I agreed with the coach that if they took one, I would dive to one side. But in the end the buggers hit the ball the other way. Today, it is usual to know which way a rival tends to hit it.


Did you go in for mind games with players before they took a penalty?


No, I just waited. You have to be ready to throw yourself in the direction you think they'll shoot, and that's about it. There's nothing else to think about. There isn't time.


Have you given Pepe advice?


No, I stay out of it. He has to be confident in himself, and he has been from a young age. His goalkeeping training is pretty much done now.


What has he learned from his youth?


Perseverance, work, learning something new each day. And being a good person. That's fundamental in any walk of life.


Do you discuss each other's errors?


We talk about games and share a few jokes, but we tend not to analyse too much. I wasn't as good as him [laughs]! Mistakes are scrutinised by everyone in such detail these days, it's better we talk about other things.


When Pepe was a boy, did you think he'd end up playing at the top?


I wanted him to, with the skills he had. As a father there is nothing better than to see your dreams for your children realised – but it's down to his hard work and attitude. Nothing's been given to him on a plate.


Do you think the Reina name might have affected him?


Possibly. Pepe provokes envy. People get jealous because of his personality, his way of being, the good person that he is – and the fact he is such a good keeper.


You're not hoping he returns to Spain?


At Liverpool, everything is going so well for him. I'm sure he misses the sun and his friends, but there are so many planes going back and forth, it's not really a problem.


Reina during the Champions League semi-final victory over Chelsea


Over to you Pepe. Did your name hinder or help you?


I'm proud to have my name. It's a privilege to have the father I do, he's like a friend and an experienced teacher who has been heavily involved in top-flight football.


Do you have any traits in common?


I don't know, I wasn't lucky enough to see him play. From what I've been told we're quite similar in some of our movements. He was more agile, as I understand it, and more intense than me. Shorter, more explosive and faster. But football has changed. Back then you couldn't use your feet, now you have to – a lot.


And you have both missed out on playing for the national team...


We've lived in times dominated by Iríbar and, in my case, Iker Casillas. It's completely understandable; they are the best keepers of their times. You just have to be patient, keep working and take advantage of an opportunity if it comes.


What is your earliest memory of the European Cup?


When Barcelona won it in 1992. I supported them.


And your first game as a player?


To tell the truth, I can't remember it very well. I think it was in Barcelona, against Panathinaikos in the quarter-finals in 2002. With quarter of an hour left, our keeper Roberto Bonano got injured. It was an eventful game – we started off behind and ended up winning 3-1, but we suffered.


Do Champions League games have something special about them?


The nights at Anfield are special, and playing in the Champions League with Liverpool is always special. The travelling and training on the opponents pitch the day before the match; great experiences.


Your father must have told you some stories...


A few. The 1974 final when they almost won the European Cup. He jokes that if he hadn't let in that goal no one would remember him. But I've been told many times that he was phenomenal against Celtic in the semi-final, practically getting Atlético to the final on his own.

Being a goalkeeper is like that – unforgiving. Getting to the final and experiencing everything that surrounds such an enormous footballing night is incredible, so just imagine what it's like if you win.


What do you make of the two Liverpools: successful in Europe, not so much in the Premiership?


The difficulty is that the physical difference is huge. A team that plays a technical, short-passing game must also compete with teams playing a direct game, launching the ball upfield. It is more difficult to defend against; these teams can present a real tactical challenge and cause many doubts. That's what's happening to us in the Premiership. We haven't yet reached the very top.

Over nine months it is difficult to compete with the three other big teams, who are very strong, and play against smaller teams who play long high balls. In the Champions League, if you are well set-up tactically and physically like Liverpool, thanks to Benítez, you can prosper.


Do you ever feel homesick?


Spain is my home, my country. I have friends and family there, and a lot of things that I miss. Spain has impressive food, weather, a great way of life – even the philosophy of life is completely different. But in terms of sport, I'm not missing anything. It's a privilege to play in England.


And Liverpool?


I arrived at the club with Rafa Benítez, and he made me strengthen my game. I owe him a lot, but then I owe a lot to this club.





Good read, what a brilliant player, can be our number one for close to a decade :)

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