Chelsea’s expected recall of keeper Thibaut Courtois from a three-season loan at Atletico Madrid has prompted the La Liga leaders into action regarding the potential capture of Liverpool’s Spanish goalie Pepe Reina.
Reina has spent this term on loan at Napoli under former Reds boss Rafa Benitez and the Serie A side have the option to make the deal permanent, but Atleti’s advance will pique the interest of a player thought to favour a move back to his homeland.
Los Colchoneros became favourites to win the Spanish league at 21/20 for the first time this season following their 2-0 win at Getafe last time out, after Barcelona lost 1-0 away to Granada.
Diego Simeone’s side lead neighbours Real Madrid by three points with five games remaining and can streak clear of the Clasico pair with a sixth win-to-nil in seven La Liga matches at 4/7 against Elche at the Vicente Calderon.
While striker Diego Costa’s 26 goals and midfielder Koke’s 13 assists account for much of Atleti’s stunning progress, the fact that they’ve conceded only 22 league goals this term – just two more than all-conquering FC Bayern in the Bundesliga – speaks volumes about their on-loan stopper.
Courtois broke Victor Valdes and Iker Casillas’ five-year stranglehold on the Ricardo Zamora trophy awarded to the La Liga goalkeeper with the lowest goal-to-game ratio and kept a division-best 18 clean sheets in total during the 2012/13 season.
Simeone has a decision to make regarding whether the 21-year-old will line up against Chelsea in the Champions League, with Atleti currently edging 5/6 favouritism over the 9/10 Blues to reach their first European Cup final for 40 years.
It was thought possible that Courtois would be benched in an attempt to appease the west Londoners ahead of a possible extension of the player’s loan into a fourth season, but news that Jose Mourinho wants the Belgium number one back at the club look to have scotched such rumours.
This has led Simeone to size up other options and Reina, who made over 100 La Liga appearances for Barcelona and Villarreal before his move to Anfield nearly nine years ago, fits the bill.