GK Rivalries - Jerzy Dudek v Pepe Reina
Picture this, you have just saved the vital spot-kick to win your teams the Champions League, on top of a miraculous double save to keep your side in the game. Freedom of the city, immortality and untouchable status would surely follow, but imagine the following season being forced to budge for a new fan favourite. This was exactly the fate bestowed one on Jerzy Dudek after his Liverpool heroics in Istanbul.
Then Liverpool boss, Rafa Benitez relegated Dudek to the bench in favour of new signing and fellow Spaniard, Jose Pepe Reina. The Pole who saved two penalties in Liverpool’s historic fifth European Cup triumph over AC Milan, having been 3 goals down at half time was now a mere fixture in the Anfield dressing room.
The Pole was bemused at his treatment at the hands of Benitez, as he was dropped from his number one position after £8 million was spent Villareal ‘keeper, Reina. So much was Dudek’s fury at the situation, he wrote in his autobiography that he wanted to ‘punch’ his rotund manager.
Dudek’s cull from the first team resulted and a paltry six league appearances for the Reds cost him his place at the 2006 World Cup.
As the Dudek’s Liverpool career was coming to a close, Reina was establishing his own reputation and like his predecessor would write his name into the esteemed list of revered Liverpool goalkeepers.
In his first season he went on to win the FA Cup in astonishingly similar circumstances to Dudek the year previous, saving three penalties in the shootout in the aftermath of a 3-3 draw.
However, Reina could not complete the heroics in the repeat of the 2005 final two years later after falling 2-1 to the hands of an AC Milan side relent on inflicting revenge. He, unlike Dudek, did make a good fist of a title challenge, as Liverpool ran an all-conquering Manchester United side in the 2008/09 season and were front-runners until a bizarre outburst from Benitez that involved a lot of ‘facts’.
Jerzy Dudek went onto sign for Real Madrid, who ironically would hire and fire his nemesis within months nearly a decade later, whilst Reina is still plying his trade in top level football, further ironically for AC Milan.