Aston Villa boss Dean Smith praises Pepe Reina after goalkeeper dropped for first time in Premier League
Dean Smith has praised the attitude of “ultimate professional” Pepe Reina following his decision to drop the veteran goalkeeper for Villa’s Premier League return.
Reina had started all six league matches since joining on loan from AC Milan in January but was replaced by Orjan Nyland for Wednesday’s 0-0 draw with Sheffield United.
It was the first time the 37-year-old former Spanish international had ever been dropped in a Premier League career which included 285 matches with Liverpool.
Reina’s place had been vulnerable prior to the league's shutdown following high-profile mistakes in Villa’s defeats at Southampton and Leicester, while Nyland impressed in the club’s run to the Carabao Cup final.
But Smith insisted his decision to switch keepers was only made on the eve of the restart.
He said: “I'm always honest with my players. I pulled Pepe into the office on Tuesday and gave him the reason. He's the ultimate professional and he took it.
“Now it's his job to prove me wrong and go show what he is about with his experience in training.
“To be honest, since the moment I told him he's been exemplary on the training field which is what I would expect from him.”
Smith remains keen to keep Reina at the club for the remainder of the season and an agreement with Milan to extend his loan should be completed next week.
Similar discussions are ongoing with Chelsea over Danny Drinkwater. The midfielder, who missed the Blades draw with a minor injury, is unable to face his parent club when they visit Villa Park on Sunday.
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