Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has flatly rejected suggestions he is looking to sell goalkeeper Jose Reina and placed his faith in the Spain international to regain his best form under him.
Reports claimed the Reds boss was planning a January move for Birmingham’s England goalkeeper Jack Butland or young German prospect Ron-Robert Zieler to throw Reina’s future into doubt.
However, Rodgers denied that was the case and, in breaking with policy and not commenting on speculation, he stressed goalkeeper was not a position he was looking at strengthening next month.
“I don’t like to talk about speculation as I’ve know in my time at Liverpool the names we have been linked with has been incredible,” he told Press Association Sport.
“But what is worth putting on record is that I’m not looking for another goalkeeper.
“We have been linked with lots of goalkeepers. I have two very good goalkeepers – Pepe Reina and Brad Jones, who is a very loyal and capable number two.
“Any areas we look to improve will be in other areas.”
Reina has had a poor last couple of seasons and, when he was ruled out for a month with a hamstring injury in October, Jones’ performances led to questions about whether the Spaniard would regain his place.
He duly did when fit and Rodgers expects him to occupy the first-choice position for several years to come.
“Pepe Reina is clearly our number one goalkeeper, one of the best goalkeepers in the league,” the Northern Irishman added.
“He had a difficult couple of years but for me his best years are ahead of him and his commitment to the cause and what we are trying to achieve is 150 per cent.
“He has taken on board himself to do a lot of work to get in the best possible state he can be in physically and mentally and I am so happy with him.
“He is a great man and has been a wonderful player for me in this short period of time on and off the field.
“I can see him starting to get back to the level he set here, which was a really high standard, and hopefully that continues.”
Reina is expected to start in Liverpool’s crucial final Europa League Group A match against already-eliminated Udinese at the Stadio Friuli tomorrow.
Defeat would see them fail to make the last 32 but a positive result - providing they at least match Young Boys’ display at home to Anzhi Makhachkala, who have already booked their place in the knockout stage – would see them go through.
“It is very important for us. It is a competition we all want to do well in and we’ve never felt at any moment that we want to be out of it,” said Rodgers, dismissing suggestions his side – currently 11th in the Barclays Premier League - would be better off out of Europe.
“We’ve had one or two frustrations at home but ultimately if we qualify tomorrow it will be terrific considering everything we’ve been through,” he added.
“Then we can put it to bed and get ready for February.
“It hasn’t always been smooth but we are hoping in the future we are creating something here which can allow us to have a good future going forward.
“We are doing the dirty work at the moment in trying to get through all the rough times but I have enjoyed every minute of it (Europe). It has been a great learning experience for us.
“I have seen lots of things which have been real positives.
“Ultimately we go into the match tomorrow with it in our hands and we will look to get the result which takes us through and there will be no-one more delighted.
“It can make it more difficult because Udinese are playing with more freedom and they know the result doesn’t determine their destiny.
“They won’t have the pressure of having to qualify for a draw or a win.
“My only real concern is about ourselves, looking to control our own game and if we can do that we can get the result which takes us through.”
Striker Luis Suarez will also start his first Europa League match away from Anfield as he is suspended for Sunday’s trip to West Ham.
“Luis wants to play every single game and there are other games in this tournament I’ve had to take him out when he’s wanted to play,” Rodgers said.
“But he understands the situation completely and it makes sense for him as he’s not going to be available for the weekend.”