Newcastle United have been boosted in their attempts to lure goalkeeper Pepe Reina to the club after the player's agent admitted he would consider returning to the Premier League. The veteran stopper is currently in talks over a contract extension with Napoli but negotiations have stalled, leading to reports that Rafael Benitez is considering a reunion with the Spaniard.
The Sun understand that Benitez is interested in signing Reina for the third time - having previously brought the ex-Barcelona stopper to Liverpool and Napoli during his managerial career. The Toon are said to have rebuffed the Serie A club's £5m ($6.3m) valuation but remain keen on recruiting the experienced 'keeper.
Rumours regarding Newcastle's interest have swelled amid uncertainty over whether Reina will agree a new deal to stay at Napoli. He made 37 top-flight appearances last term but wants a three-year extension, which would keep him in Naples beyond his 38th birthday.
Reina earned a reputation as one of the Premier League's finest custodians during his nine years with Liverpool. His agent Manuel Garcia Quillon admits a return to England is a possibility but concedes his client's preference is to remain with Napoli.
"No, there's nothing," Quillon told Calciomercato when asked about a possible return to Spain. "In Italy there's only Napoli. The Premier League? We're talking about an important player who a lot of teams would like, but his priority is to stay with Napoli. Is a renewal impossible? I don't know, we discussed it but for now we haven't moved forward."
Though Reina has demanded a three-year deal, Napoli have told the player to reduce his expectations given his age and standard of performances. Newcastle's best hopes of luring Reina back to England hinge on talks failing to reach a resolution, which could see Benitez use his personal relationship to secure a deal.
"Reina has to understand," Napoli sporting chief Pietro Lo Monaco told Italian TV programme Marte Sport Live, according to InsideFutbol.com. "He is a charismatic player in the dressing room and has his value, but if he is honest he should say that his technical performance this year was not that of a top goalkeeper. There is also his age. To ask for three years seems a bit exaggerated. Napoli are right to look around [at other goalkeepers]."
Karl Darlow was first choice in the Newcastle goal last season, making 36 appearances in all competitions as the club returned to the Premier League at the first time of asking after winning the Championship title. Rob Elliot and Matz Sels are both in reserve, while Freddie Woodman returns to St James' Park after impressing as England's Under-20s won the World Cup in South Korea.
Benitez has made no secret of his admiration for Reina but admits that Napoli hold all the aces in their attempts to bring him to the North East. "I have a great personal relationship with Reina - he's a great goalkeeper," he said, according to The Sun.
"Pepe is a great player but above all a leader in the dressing room. We missed him at Napoli in the year he went to Bayern Munich - he can make a difference both on and off the pitch. Would I take him to Newcastle if he left? I respect Napoli - as that's where he is - and our club has a lot of goalkeepers who are doing well. We need to be calm, we'll talk to the club and decide on our targets."