Aston Villa have confirmed the loan signing of goalkeeper Pepe Reina from AC Milan for the remainder of the season.
Dean Smith’s side had been searching for a new goalkeeper after No.1 Tom Heaton was ruled out for the rest of the season with a knee injury suffered against Burnley on New Year’s Day.
Orjan Nyland came on to replace him at Turf Moor and has since started the following three games against Fulham, Leicester City and Manchester City, with Lovre Kalinic the substitute goalkeeper.
Pepe Reina signs for Aston Villa: Five things to know…
- Tom Heaton was ruled out for the rest of the season with a knee injury picked up on New Year’s Day.
- Orjan Nyland has been playing in his place, starting Villa’s past three games.
- Joe Hart was linked with joining Villa to replace Heaton as No.1 but a deal failed to materialise.
- And the club have now confirmed the signing of Pepe Reina on loan until the end of the season.
- Aston Villa are 8/13 to be relegated from the Premier League in 2019/20, according to William Hill*.
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But in those games Nyland has conceded nine goals including two against Fulham as Villa were knocked out of the FA Cup and six to Man City on Sunday.
As soon as the extent of Heaton’s injury was confirmed, Villa were being linked with a new goalkeeper, as the club reportedly lacked faith in Nyland and Kalinic, with Jed Steer also injured.
Former England No.1 Joe Hart was the first to be mentioned, with the 32-year-old managing just two appearances for Burnley across all competitions this campaign, having so far been unable to displace Nick Pope.
Although he has regressed since his glory days at Manchester City, with whom he won six trophies, Hart’s experience was said to be a key component in Villa’s interest.
But, after talking to Hart’s representatives, Villa turned their attention elsewhere and have now signed Reina.
The 37-year-old has been second-choice to Gianluigi Donnarumma since joining Milan from Napoli in 2018, playing just 13 times for the Rossoneri, with only one of those appearances coming this season.
— Aston Villa (@AVFCOfficial) January 13, 2020
Liverpool fans will remember Reina fondly for his previous spell in England, with the Spaniard making 396 appearances for the Reds across nine years. In that time Reina helped Liverpool win the FA Cup and League Cup and made a name for himself as one of the Premier League’s best goalkeepers.
The Spaniard was seen in the stands at Villa Park on Sunday watching the side’s 6-1 defeat to Man City, and Smith has since spoken in awe of his new signing.
He said: “We’ve managed to secure a player in Pepe who has a wealth of Premier League experience.
“At the start of the summer we were looking for an experienced goalkeeper and brought in Tom Heaton. Unfortunately, his injury has ruled him out for the rest of the season but Pepe fits our criteria not just because of his experience but also because of his leadership qualities.”
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Reina may be thrown straight into the Villa team as they continue their fight against relegation with an away trip to face Brighton & Hove Albion on Saturday.
With other results going against them this weekend, Villa are back in the relegation zone following their defeat to Man City, having only just fought their way out. Villa are only a point behind 17th-placed Watford but with the Hornets improving under Nigel Pearson, the Villans chances of safety have dropped.
After the Brighton game is potentially Villa’s biggest in the Premier League as they host Watford in what could go some way in confirming who will be relegated at the end of the season. With Reina in goal Villa’s chances of survival will have undoubtedly improved.