LIVERPOOL will offer Pepe Reina a new contract in a bid to stave off interest from Valencia.
The La Liga outfit were linked with a move for the Spanish goalkeeper earlier in the season, and are continuing to monitor the goalkeeper's progress.
But Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez has no intention of allowing Reina to depart and has revealed yesterday that talks are already underway over an extension to the keeper's present deal, which runs until the summer of 2009.
Reina, who moved to Anfield from Villarreal for £6million last year, kept 29 clean sheets during an impressive first season and saved three penalties in the final shoot-out against West Ham United to help Liverpool claim the FA Cup in May.
He came under strong criticism following a poor start to this campaign, but has rediscovered his form with his shut-out in the 1-0 win over Manchester City on Saturday, his ninth of the season.
And Benitez, whose side entertain Portsmouth in the Premiership this evening, believes Reina is now getting back to his best.
"I'm really pleased with Pepe and we're talking to him about extending his contract here," said the Anfield manager. "When we decided to bring him here, it was because we knew he was a very good goalkeeper, but I also knew the person and his mentality.
"He's a very good professional, always joking in the dressing room. It's all very positive. He's getting back to his best, it's clear.
He's better now, and the team is better now.
"He needed confidence and, after two or three clean sheets, he's back up there.
He's still very young but, for me, he's one of the top three goalkeepers in England. In Spain now, he's No 1.
"Whether he plays or not for his country depends on his manager but, while we have some good goalkeepers in Spain, he's No 1 as far as I'm concerned.
"He's got two more years after this year. But we're looking to extend it because we know there were some clubs asking about him and we don't want to sell him. We want to show we have confidence in him."
To me, he's very much of a confidence player, whereby his form is linked closely with his performance. If he has a sh*te game, then he'll go on a poor run. But recently, his form starts to pick up and I still think Pepe is up to the task and will be a good keeper in years to come. He might be a little mistake prone at times, but we have forgotten his age. At only 24, he is considered young especially in the goalkeeping department and hopefully he'll stay on.
This will no doubt put doubt in Scotty Carson's future. I've seen him play a few games for Charlton this season and I must say he's a very good shot stopper, better than Paul Robinson himself. But he needs a few years to mature and we'll see.
So now, let's just stick to Pepe the volleyball player.