Pepe is spot on

Jose Manuel Reina has a reputation for saving penalties.-AP

Jose Manuel Reina, one of the best spot-kick stoppers in the world, has ended the 2006-07 season well. He was outstanding for Liverpool in both legs of the Champions League semifinal against Chelsea, writes Andy Hampson.

Jose Manuel Reina is a FA Cup-winning goalkeeper with a reputation for saving penalties. He has helped Liverpool reach a second Champions League final in three years.

Reina, who prefers to be called Pepe, was born in Madrid but it was with Barcelona that he began his career. As the son of famed Atletico Madrid number one Miguel Reina, goalkeeping came naturally to him. He featured in the Spain side that won the European Under-16 Championship in 1999 and went on to make his Barca debut the following year in a 3-3 draw with Celta Vigo.

Reina first came into contact with Liverpool when he played against them in the 2001 UEFA Cup semifinals. He was beaten by a Gary McAllister penalty as Liverpool won over two legs but since then he has proved one of the best spot-kick stoppers in the world.

Yet he could never establish himself at the Nou Camp and it was with Villarreal that he made his name. Reina initially moved there on loan in 2002 and the switch was made permanent two years later. He played his part in the rise of the club and he really caught the eye as the team finished third in the Primera Liga in 2005. Reina saved seven from nine penalties faced that season and his performances earned him full international honours and a GBP6million move to European champions Liverpool.

Reina was made first choice by Spanish manager Rafael Benitez ahead of Champions League final hero Jerzy Dudek but his first two seasons at the club have been punctuated by inconsistent performances.

On the whole, however, his record cannot be faulted. He has benefited from playing behind a strong defence and in his first season he kept 20 clean sheets in the Barclays English Premier League, including a club record eight in succession.

The season culminated with Liverpool beating West Ham in a remarkable FA Cup final. Reina was the classic villain turned hero. He made a number of errors and was at fault for two goals as West Ham opened up a 3-2 lead. Fortunately for him, he was spared by a last-minute Steven Gerrard equaliser and he went on to win the game with three penalty saves in the shoot-out.

The 2006-07 season has been a similar tale of peaks and troughs but two dreadful performances by Dudek when Reina was rested cemented the Spaniard's position. He has gone on to end the season well and was outstanding in both legs of Liverpool's Champions League semifinal against Chelsea.

Reina married his long-time girlfriend Yolanda Ruiz in Cordoba last May, just a week after the FA Cup final. They had a daughter, Grecia, together in February 2007.

Reina left Anfield a hero after his heroics in the second leg against Chelsea but his night was ruined when he returned home to discover he had been burgled. Jewellery, an expensive entertainment system and personal documents were taken, as well as his upmarket Porsche Cayenne. The car was found burnt at 6.30 the following morning.

The Porsche Cayenne — for which Reina presumably needs a replacement — is a luxury SUV, and a cross between a 4x4 off-road vehicle and a sports saloon. Its V8 engine boasts incredibly high performance, although given its speed and sport-like appeal, it is unlikely anyone uses it for its off-road capabilities. It costs between GBP35,500 and GBP81,500 depending on the specifications.

FACTFILE

Name: Jose Manuel Reina Position: Goalkeeper Club: Liverpool DOB: 31/08/82 Spain Caps: 5 Spain Goals: 0 Spain debut: v Uruguay, August 2005

Moment to remember

Although his shoot-out saves in the FA Cup final will not be forgotten, Reina's finest hour for Liverpool was undoubtedly this season's Champions League tussle with Chelsea. Reina first kept the Reds in the tie with a number of saves in the 1-0 first leg defeat at Stamford Bridge. Liverpool were then much stronger in the return at Anfield and took the game to extra time and penalties, with Reina again having excelled himself with a fine save from Didier Drogba. He then shone in the shootout once again with stops from Arjen Robben and Geremi.

Moment to forget

The low point of Reina's Liverpool career came earlier this season when the Reds were embarrassed 3-0 byfierce rivals Everton in the Merseyside derby at Goodison Park. Liverpool were already two goals down _ one of which came after Everton had induced mayhem in the penalty area _ when Reina misjudged a Lee Carsley shot and parried the ball into the air as he overbalanced. Andy Johnson ran in to head into the net.

@ PA Sport, 2006, All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, re-written, re-distributed or commercially exploited. Sportstar is not responsible for any inaccuracy in the material.