Jose Antonio Reyes: A Man of Great Promise

The shocking news of Jose Antonio Reyes’ death today puts life into perspective. He was just 35, which is no age at all.

At the time of his signing, I remember being surprised Reyes was joining us. He was at the time one of Spanish football’s most exciting prospects. Players in that stratum didn’t leave the Iberian peninsula, they joined Real Madrid or Barcelona.

And certainly, not one who, if you cut him, was Sevilliano through and through. According to The Guardian back in January 2004, then 20-year-old Reyes left a club whose “novelty bedspread adorns his room”. Think Carl Jenkinson with unbelievable talent.

Zinedine Zidane underlined Reyes talent after Sevilla beat Real 4 – 1 in the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan. The youngster played as if he were on an “invisible motorbike”; high praise indeed.

Arsenal, even with Wenger in his prime at developing young players, provided a strange destination for someone who, according to a team-mate at the time, was “very Andaluz, very simple”. That proved to be the case as he struggled to adapt to London and to England.

Prophetically, Reyes earned the tag of Spain’s most-fouled player point in that season. The Neville Brothers, Manchester’s soulless version not the New Orleans soul men, kicked him from pillar to post at Old Trafford under the watchful eye of Mike Riley as the 49-match unbeaten run hit the buffers. The PGMOL chair laid bare his incompetence on the pitch; the state of refereeing in the modern game comes as no surprise to anyone who witnessed that match.

A Man of Great Promise

Reyes learned the lesson of that afternoon. Seven months later in Cardiff, a similar spikiness to Dennis Bergkamp’s surfaced. Anything in a Manchester United shirt which moved found the Spaniard’s boot or body in their way. It earned him a red card as the match drifted toward the penalty shootout, only the second man to be sent off in an FA Cup final.

He got off to an inauspicious start at Highbury. An early game saw him score an own goal as we lost to Middlesbrough on Teesside in the second leg. A month later, Chelsea found out why Arsenal spent £17m on Reyes…

A second, and what proved to be the winning goal, followed quickly after.

He only scored 23 goals for the club but a number of them were memorable. Reyes revenge on Middlesbrough wasn’t long in coming. In the 5 – 3 win at Highbury, just when the unbeaten run looked like it was ending, he cut inside a defender, clipping the ball with his heel before firing the fourth into the net. 42 undefeated, equalling Nottingham Forest’s then-record.

Fulham suffered a similar fate, when a Bergkamp pass set him free to score.

Things weren’t rosy in the garden, however. The end of his time at Arsenal saw the club humiliated, twice denying Reyes was leaving for Real Madrid, only for a deal which saw him move to the Bernabeu while Julio Baptiste joined Arsenal. It was a transfer which didn’t work out for anyone.

Twelve months later, we sold him to Atletico Madrid where he won the first two of five Europa League finals. Do you think Unai Emery hogged the limelight? Reyes won five of seven finals between 2009-10 and 2015-16, the last three in his second spell with Sevilla when Emery was in charge.

Rest in Peace

Did he ever hit the heights his talent promised? His list of honours suggests he did but Reyes suffered the curse of many mercurial players. One week he was a world-beater, the next he looked out of place on Hackney Marshes.

Time to remember the man who took time to speak with a six-year-old boy who shocked him with a few words in Spanish as they walked down the tunnel.

My thoughts go out to his family and friends.

18 thoughts on “Jose Antonio Reyes: A Man of Great Promise

  1. Foetry says:

    Great Tribute Mr Warrior. A boy from that era when Arsenal were probably # 1 in Europe for scouting young talent. RIP Jose 💔

  2. Bill says:

    Thanks for the post Yogi

    What a shocking event. My prayers for Jose and his family

  3. Bill says:

    Zidane’s description of Jose Antonio as moving on an invisible motorbike is a perfect description of what I thought when I first saw him. I don’t know if he could have kept up with Theo Walcott in a 100 meter dash but over the first 10-20 yards he could accelerate as fast as any player I have ever seen and he also seemed to have first rate technical skill. He was amazingly eye catching and eye catching gets fans and even players and professional talent scouts excited about potential. Unfortunately, as we have seen many times eye catching and incredible potential are not the same as productive and effective. Even Arsene at the height of his player development and improvement powers could not help him live up to the hype. That said it sounds like he had a nice career in Spain after he left Arsenal and I really hope he saved enough of the money that he earned to take care of his family.

  4. Paulie Walnuts says:

    Tragic , shocking news.

    RIP Jose Antonio

  5. C says:

    Absolutely brilliant post!

    R.I.P to certainly one of the most talented wingers of his generation.

  6. C says:

    Bill,

    Mate, he scored some very important goals for us and it was the fact he never settled in London that was the problem, not the talent.

    Nice career in Spain, his brace won Real Madrid the La Liga crown in 2007, he won 5 Europa League titles and is thought of as one of the most gifted wingers of his generation. Defining a player based on what he does purely in England is madness.

  7. Bill says:

    C

    Fair enough. I didn’t realize he had won that many Europa league trophies. I think everyone one of the most talented wingers of his generation he would have been a big team player helping to lead his team to deep runs in the champions league and an important part of of Spanish national team.

  8. Bill says:

    Liverpool bought Andrew Robertson for $8M. We desperately need our brain trust to find a player or 2 like that. We certainly need a LB and you shouldn’t need to spend big money to find a solid fullback. Save our big transfer fees for a CB, a DM who can solidify our midfield or an attacking mid who can create some assists and score a few goals and a winger who can give us some end product.

  9. andy1886 says:

    RIP Jose. With more protection from referees he could have been a legend. One MOTM performance in a 4-1 win at Norwich in 2004 remains a favorite memory of his time at the club. Prayers for his friends and family.

  10. Birdkamp says:

    Bill, they got him from a relegated club. We shouldn’t be above scavenging like that, if the talent’s there.

    In 2016 AW said the fans would never have accepted a signing with Mahrez’s profile. The problem is that I don’t think our scouts would have spotted him in the first place. I’m sure the club knows what it needs to do to improve, and is aware that we need to be creative to get an edge with recruitment, which might why we got caught up with all that StatDNA nonsense. I’d hope we’ve got something better up our sleeve these days.

  11. Bill says:

    Birdkamp

    Our scouts certainly have to a much better job and they need to find players like Andrew Robertson. It’s a lot easier to find good players who are off the radar at a position like fullback or maybe DM as opposed to the difficulty finding an unknown CB, creative attacking midfielder or a winger who can provide end product.

    If the rumors I have read are true StatDNA really made Xhaka, Mustafi, Elneny and Lucas Perez look good. I can certainly understand how players like that would look good on passing stats and other technical skill related stats. The highly esoteric stats work well in American baseball but not as much in European football. I think a lot of those stats were created to give the stat junkies something to think about and many can be misleading. You can’t really quantify someone’s ability to play intelligent defense and avoid mistakes when you are put under pressure.

  12. Blue Yonder says:

    I recall Reyes as an all-action player who played with enthusiasm. Just what Arsenal need now. I also recall him being hacked by the likes of the Man U low-lifes.
    What a tragedy for he and his family.
    Requiescat in pace.

  13. gooner in oz says:

    Wonderful tribute Yogi. I liked Reyes, and will always remember his wonder strike vs Chelsea. I also remember an incident I didn’t like, when Thierry Henry scored a goal, and the first to congratulate him was Reyes. Henry looked behind him and saw who was there, and deliberately pushed Reyes’s arms away. Jose wasn’t too impressed, by the surprised look on his face. Jose leaves us with a lot of happy memories though, and I thank him for that. RIP.

  14. HenryNorrisDialSquare says:

    Touching tribute YW.

    I respected Reyes as a player and always rated him for being a gifted, technical, winger. Shame he never settled here. My thought’s and prayer’s go out to his family.

    @gooner in oz

    I think I remember that incident. It was disgusting. It’s that arrogance that AW helped foster in the dressing room and it’s why we should have got rid of Henry 2 seasons before we actually did. We would have got more money for him as well.

  15. HenryNorrisDialSquare says:

    The AJ fight though! Getting beaten up like that! He’s brought shame on British boxing. Are you seriously telling me, if it had been Wilder or Fury fighting Diaz that they would have lost to this guy?

    Well done ‘pool for sending the spuds home packing. Should be interesting to see how they’ll play on Thursday against the Dutch.

  16. Stephen says:

    This is one of the issues that happened with the Cleveland Browns in the NFL. They attempted to go all in with analytics but soon realized that team sports struggle to deal well with analytics because of the team/mental aspects of it. Analytics can help in some capacity but aren’t nearly as effective as actually watching someone play football and judging their talent from that.

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