It should come as no surprise to followers of Spanish football that Jose Manuel Reina has forged a career between the sticks. Indeed, the keeper has followed in the footsteps of his father Miguel, who kept goal for La Liga giants Barcelona and Atletico de Madrid during the 1960s and 70s.
Lightning reflexes, positioning and agility have all combined to earn him the respect of the notoriously hard-to-please fans packing the Anfield Kop. What is more, ‘Pepe' Reina's ability to play the ball with both feet makes him a cut above many other custodians, while giving him the confidence to sweep up behind his defenders should the situation require.
An incorrigible joker off the pitch, his permanent grin switches automatically to a frown of concentration as soon as he crosses the white line. Moreover, he would not have got this far had he displayed any lack of focus, having been thrown into the deep end as Barcelona's first-team keeper at the age of just 18. But it would be during a three-year spell at Villarreal where he would make his name, as well as earning a move to Liverpool, where he immediately banished the Reds' UEFA Champions League-winning hero Jerzy Dudek to a place on the substitute's bench.
However, despite his abundant ability, the dominance of Real Madrid shot-stopper Iker Casillas means that Reina invariably has to watch national-team games from the dugout. Yet it is a situation he has accepted with typically good humour, and his presence in the Spain dressing room is vital to the positive atmosphere that reigns in the La Roja camp.