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The Fateful Life Of Jose Antonio Reyes

By Jacob Steinberg

On one flank at the Bernabeu stood Cristiano Ronaldo. Opposite him stood Jose Antonio Reyes. Ronaldo was wearing the white of Real Madrid. Reyes donned the red and white stripes of Atletico, but as the Madrid derby progressed on Sunday night, it became increasingly difficult to shake off the feeling that he also should have been decked out in Real’s colours. Although both Ronaldo and Reyes were once regarded as two of the brightest young talents in English football, their careers have veered off wildly in opposite directions.

The descent of Reyes from arguably the best player at Arsenal and in the country, for a limited time only admittedly, to an occasionally gripping performer for a middling club is one of the more puzzling and troubling tales of recent times. For a brief, carefree few months at the start of the 2004-05 season, Reyes was awesome. He was unplayable. He was unique. A giddy frisson was palpable in the air whenever he took to the pitch. The only player who attracted as much praise was Wayne Rooney, and anyway he was out with a broken foot.

Reyes joined Arsenal in 2004. He was hyped by everyone, including Zinedine Zidane

Some even suggested he eclipsed Thierry Henry. Maybe. He was certainly far superior to Ronaldo, and doesn’t that sound ridiculous now? Strange as it was, Ronaldo was regarded as a bit of a show pony, all style and no substance. Reyes was the real deal, the one with the end product, emerging as the star man in the best side in the country, Arsenal, who had won the league without losing a game in the previous season.

Ronaldo’s Manchester United finished an astonishing 15 points behind them, and there appeared to be more chance of a sophisticated evening at the opera with Andy Carroll than of them closing the gap. And we all know what’s happened since then: United won three league titles in a row and the Champions League, with Ronaldo being named the best player in the world in 2008 and earning an £80m move to Real Madrid in 2009. In the meantime, Reyes became the forgotten man.

In an article for the Guardian, published in September 2004, Rob Smyth wrote: “At their best they [Arsenal] have an extraordinary, unprecedented fluidity, and in the remarkable Jose Reyes they have acquired a man with the ability to play each game in a bubble; regardless of their significance, he can take them to another level, because he appears unafflicted by the choking pressure that does for Henry.” With the benefit of hindsight, it is easy to dissect that line with surgical precision, but that would do both Reyes and Smyth a disservice. At the time of writing, no one would have disagreed with those sentiments; not me, not you … ok, maybe Thierry Henry.

Reyes had arrived at Arsenal in January 2004 armed with an intimidating reputation. Signed for a fee that potentially could have reached £17m – a record for Arsenal – he had first caught the eye with an evisceration of Real Madrid while at Sevilla. His pace and skill compelled Zinedine Zidane to ask him if he was “playing on an invisible motorcycle”. Praise doesn’t come much higher than that. Arsene Wenger was surely on to a winner here. Reyes made his debut for Arsenal as a late substitute against Manchester City. He missed a couple of decent chances but his big day was ultimately overshadowed by a wonderful winner from Henry, a theme that would eventually come to define Reyes’s career in north London.

Fittingly enough, Reyes’s first decisive contribution in an Arsenal shirt came in the absence of Henry. In February 2004, Arsenal hosted their title rivals, Chelsea, in the fifth round of the FA Cup. Adrian Mutu had given Chelsea the lead, one they held with relative ease until Reyes popped up in the second half. First he cut inside from the right flank and hammered a ferocious shot into Carlo Cudicini’s top corner. Moments later a piercing pass from Patrick Vieira sliced open the Chelsea defence, and Reyes beat Cudicini with a first-time shot.

He had truly arrived, although his role in Arsenal’s ‘Invincibles’ vintage was miniscule, mainly due to the immense quality and experience of a squad that was already firmly established. As both a newcomer to the country and a youngster, Reyes was mostly kept in the wings.

Patiently he waited for a proper opportunity and at the start of the 2004-05 season he was named in the side ahead of Robert Pires. Having been given a chance by Wenger, Reyes began the season with a remarkable intensity, scoring six goals in Arsenal’s first six games, and creating many more. He was perfectly suited to a wonderful Arsenal side: capable of playing on either wing or up front, he possessed speed of mind and body and a sublime left foot. He was tricky, inventive, confident in front of goal and if he zoomed past a defender, there was no catching him. At the start of October, Reyes scored in a 4-0 victory over Charlton Athletic (and laid on the pass for Henry to score with a sumptuous backheel). At this point Arsenal were being hailed as the greatest ever side in the history of English football. Reyes was the man. Except that was the problem. He wasn’t. He was still a boy, vulnerable, open to attack and prone to the vicissitudes of growing up. Nor did it help that he was homesick and about to experience the bitterness of an English winter.

Jose Reyes the outsider: The Spaniard never truly felt at home at Arsenal

The goal against Charlton was his last until December, when he scored against Rosenborg in the Champions League. His next league goal was on Valentine’s Day in 2005. After that, he managed two more. After an explosive start, Reyes went out with about as much of a bang as a faulty Christmas cracker.

Some youngsters lose their way when they are sidetracked by alcohol, girls and partying. Others fatally believe their own hype and stand still. Some get into scrapes with the law. Others are wrecked by injury. Yet none of these issues applies to Reyes. So what’s his excuse?

Many will point to the infamous game between United and Arsenal, who were trying to make it 50 games unbeaten, in October 2004. Identifying Reyes as Arsenal’s biggest threat, Gary and Phil Neville set about ruthlessly kicking him out of the game. It was blatant, outrageous and vicious. It also worked. The referee did nothing. Reyes did even less, and Manchester United won 2-0. There is a clip of Reyes cheekily nutmegging Gary Neville on the halfway line and racing away from him, only to be brutally hacked down. Scandalously neither Neville was sent off, and eventually the only player who left the pitch was the shell-shocked Reyes, substituted for his own good after 70 minutes. This is perhaps the critical moment of his time at Arsenal, the moment when it crystallised that maybe English football wasn’t for him. But it’s not the key moment in his career. No match, no matter how much of a mark it left on you (and Reyes had loads, the Nevilles made sure of that), can be that definitive.

This was only the start of an extended period of self-sabotage for Reyes. Before a friendly against England in November 2004, he became involved in a racism scandal when Spain’s coach, Luis Aragones, told him: “Tell that negro de mierda [black s**t] that you are much better than him. Tell him from me. You have to believe in yourself; you’re better than that negro de mierda.” Aragones, of course, was talking about Henry, the King of Highbury. Come at the king and you’d better not miss. Suddenly Reyes found himself in a very awkward place.

Matters only deteriorated from there. The following February he was caught out by a prank call on Spanish radio. Thinking he was talking to Real Madrid’s sporting director, Emilio Butragueno, Reyes begged to be taken to the Bernabeu. Suffice to say that didn’t go down well at Arsenal. He had failed to settle in London, struggled with the language and was desperately homesick. So obvious was it that he wanted to leave, he would have hammered the nails into his own coffin, but he was so woefully out of form he probably would have missed anyway.

Reyes, about to be sent off for a challenge on Ronaldo, in the 2005 FA Cup final

The final indignity of a bewilderingly dismal season came in the FA Cup final against United. By now Reyes had been exposed as the show pony and Ronaldo was the thoroughbred, a feeling enforced by this match. In a final that United dominated and somehow lost on penalties, Ronaldo was the best player on the pitch. Reyes was an irrelevance and was eventually sent off in the last minute of extra time for a crude lunge on Ronaldo. Their roles had well and truly been reversed. Strangely, though, Reyes did not leave in that summer and managed one more inconsistent season at Arsenal. Thankfully for all concerned, in the summer of 2006, he got his move back to Spain when Real Madrid signed him.

Now here’s where the story turns weird. On the basis that Reyes’s lack of form could be put down to a loss of confidence, the Neville brothers putting the frighteners on him and his chronic homesickness, moving back to Spain ought to have been the springboard for him to regain his composure. It simply didn’t happen though. He had one season at Real, under Fabio Capello, who didn’t appear to fancy him too much. Even though he scored the goals against Mallorca on the final day of the season that brought the La Liga title to the Bernabeu, he had still flattered to deceive.

Reyes moved to Atletico in 2007 after a brief and unsuccessful spell at Real Madrid

Reyes joined Atletico in the summer of 2007. His first season there was a farce as he failed to score a single league goal, and ended up farmed out on loan to Benfica, where he spent the 2008-09 season. Last season was better for him: he finally regained some of his mojo, and helped Atletico to victory in the Europa League and the Copa del Rey. In any other year, that would have been more than enough. But this was a World Cup year. And Reyes wasn’t involved. And Spain brought home the biggest prize of them all. This is Reyes’s lot: brilliant, unlucky and tragic in equal measure. The one resigned to watching his mates get the job, the glory and the girl, accepting each cruel twist of fate with a weary, stoic smile.

No one particularly shone in Sunday’s Madrid derby. Real’s attack of Ronaldo, Angel Di Maria, Gonzalo Higuain and Mesut Ozil flickered here and there but was rarely devastating. In a disappointingly drab match, Reyes was the most impressive forward on show, also eclipsing his Atletico team-mates, Diego Forlan and Sergio Aguero. Stationed on the right, he regularly left his marker, Marcelo, floundering, escaping him with consummate ease on more than one occasion. His crosses were delivered with a menacing flourish, and only the intervention of Iker Casillas prevented Forlan from scoring from one centre. Twice Reyes nearly reprised that first goal for Arsenal, the stunner against Chelsea: Casillas brilliantly saved his first effort and the second fizzed over the angle of post and bar. Close, but not close enough. The story of my life, Reyes might have reflected afterwards.

Jacob is a freelance sports journalist for The Guardian and a professional West Ham fan

More by Jacob on Pies

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He’s Not That Sort Of Player…

A Glorious Education in Italian Football

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By Ollie Irish on November 12th, 2010 in Featured, La Liga, Real Madrid. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
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61 Responses to “The Fateful Life Of Jose Antonio Reyes”

  1. Ollie Irish says:

    Triffic piece, Jacob. Will Reyes ever lose the whiff of victim?

  2. Luke says:

    Fantastic article

  3. Chris says:

    I’ve always regarded Reyes (perhaps a tad unfairly) as a shamefully nefarious play-acting man/toddler, and he’s going to have to go some way to convince me otherwise.

  4. Genuinely brilliant piece, thanks for that. never saw the connection with Ronaldo

    Ferguson’s decision to set the Mitchell brothers on him was the ultimate compliment. But Where as CR7 accepted the attention. Reyes, Like Wenger, felt he should be able to play the game unobstructed.

    He didn’t need to be unobstructed. his length of the field dribble for Sevilla is testament to that.

    I was surprised when Real didn’t keep him, Whenever i watched Capello’s Madrid he was a shining light…. but so was Robinho!

  5. Ollie Irish says:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0MyDIZHGqDw

    Reyes dicking on G Neville. Most enjoyable.

  6. Jonny says:

    It’s worth mentioning that he also played quite well in Arsenal’s 2005-6 Champions League campaign, when they made it to the final. The 4-5-1 (I think) formation Arsenal used in the knockout rounds seemed to suit him quite well. I remember him having a good effort saved near the beginning of the game against Real Madrid at the Bernabeu.

    I’ve often wondered how much of a factor Reyes’s failure was in Arsene’s decision to stick with cheaper, less high-profile players. Having got his fingers burnt, did he vow never to make a signing like that again?

  7. Rod Earthman says:

    Good read, though think you overstate Reyes’ impact somewhat. There was never a time when I was convinced by his ability, seeing him at best as hit and miss.

    I’m not sure it was on his debut, but certainly one of his first games, a midweek cup tie, where my mate, an Aresenal fan, was telling us all that the new Henry had arrived. Reyes promptly popped up and scored an OG from outside the edge of the Gunners’ box. I can’t find a record of this anywhere, did I imagine it?

  8. tony says:

    ‘Come at the king and you’d better not miss’

    …omar little at this best, what a line!

  9. Tony Low says:

    Great article Jacob.

  10. Ed says:

    Hate to be pedantic, but Atletico didn’t win the copa del rey last season, they were runners up to Sevilla.

  11. Zo says:

    Great piece.
    Yeah sad to think what could have been both for him and Arsenal.

  12. Jacob says:

    Ed – You are correct. Lost 2-0 didn’t they. Stupid me.

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  14. Martin says:

    @Rod Earthman
    I think it was againt Boro in the carling cup.. He sucked in that game..

  15. Jesus says:

    Brilliant article. A bit saddening.

  16. George says:

    Love how you sneaked in a Wire quote in there. Brilliant article.

  17. zeeman says:

    Brilliant piece,very well written.
    Reyes leaving arsenal left a lot of us feeling disappointed.

  18. Greg says:

    i wouldnt say his time at Real was completely unsuccessful. he came on as a substitute and scored two goals in the final game of the 06-07 season, a victory which clinched the title for Real. he was widely tiped to receive a full contract after that however i suppose he felt he had a better chance of being a regular at Atletico than at Real.

  19. Rajesh says:

    He was very good, may be the best player on the pitch, against Real Madrid. What if, the Referee had spotted those ruthless kicks of Gary and Neville on that day. His career would have been different.

  20. David says:

    Brilliant article. It’s nice to see some great writing amongst all of the funny stories as well. Great read!!

  21. Nick says:

    He always reminded me of watching the precociously talented Joaquin, another player for whom the touch paper never truly ignited in the way that I though it would.

  22. [...] Irina Shayk in daring dress at Spanish fashion …Daily MailMetro -Goal.com America -Who Ate All The Piesall 13 news [...]

  23. Jacob says:

    Greg – Correct – funnily enough he came on for Beckham in that game. Should have mentioned that.

  24. Ron says:

    This was a fine article! I learned a ton of stuff and the detail about some of his games and important points throughout his career is impressive!

    Thanks for this write-up!

  25. Jacob says:

    Thanks all for the very kind comments by the way.

  26. BV says:

    To be fair to both players being compared, Reyes was a bit older than Ronaldo. They transferred at the same price at about the same time but if wikipedia is right Ronaldo was 18, Reyes was 20 which makes a big difference in productivity. Ronaldo´s price was outrageous and he was a far bigger gamble, it might say something about Wenger and Ferguson managing styles that each picked the one. Though the differences in careers are surely up to personality.

    And pretty obscure for british readers, but the one player whose career echoes Reyes, same age, same ethnic background (not same nationality), position, the something tragic looming, is another Portuguese winger, Ricardo Quaresma.

  27. Alexander says:

    Didn’t really like this Jacob. You’re not as good as you used to be.

    Really though, excellent.

  28. Liam says:

    Top article, can’t help to think what reyes may have been, i’ve seen bright glimpses at athletico, he is 27 now.. which is beyond an age to be playing with flair and pace like players like lennon.. young can, but still think he could get back into spain squad eventually, scored one of the goals of the year last season.

  29. Will says:

    He is one of the most talented players I’ve seen in recent years, not many wingers combine pace, trickery and such great technical ability, and it’s such a shame he hasn’t fulfilled his potential. Saying that, he has been great for Atlético. Forlán may have grabbed all the headlines, but Reyes was their best performer last season, and says himself that he is playing his best football since his early Arsenal days. Del Bosque doesn’t seem to fancy him, but he has been playing well enough to earn a recall to the national side. A great player to watch when in full flow.

  30. Paul says:

    Great piece although it has to be said he has won more trophies since leaving Arsenal while Arsenal havent picked up anything. Bit harsh to expect him to make it into Spains World Cup Squad!

  31. S-League Player says:

    Just goes to show how cruel the football world can be. In many aspects, Reyes looked ot be the equal or better than Ronaldo in those early days (crikey, just realised how long ago 2005 is!)yet where it vastly mattered (ie. in the head), CR7 had that arrogance and utter self belief that he’ll succeed whereas Reyes seem to have fallen by the wayside.

    Question though: What IF Reyes had joined United instead of Arsenal? Would SAF’s legendary man management made him the greatest player in the world he looked capable of being?

  32. Micheal says:

    I can safely say that nobody watched Reyes’s progress and development as much as I do… I first saw him playing for Seville in 2001… Immediately I thought saw one of the greatest football player in the coming future… His pace, skill, technique and creativity was a blend that I have never seen before in a football player… His biggest attribution was his confidence and humility… All these aspect was suppose drive him to the summit… I know very soon a big club at that time like Barcelone, Real Madrid and Juventus are gonna get him… I almost cried when instead Arsenal got him… Everything was on a roll and true greatness was just in the horizon for Reyes… Even Arsene Wenger stated Reyes will be an Arsenal legend… So we all thought…

    Reyes’s only drawback was not his ability or mental state but his ethnic background… He is a Gypsy… Same as Jesus Navas… Gypsies are Indian descendent, hate cold winter, family-orientated and sensetive but very talented and smart people… Years of migrating and blending with other cultures made them a wonderful “breed”. Everywhere in Europe however, Gypsies are discriminated and abused…
    They are widely accepted in Spain and Italy but unfairly potrayed in other countries… Suffered as much as the Jews during the Nazi era, though not media glorified as much as the Jews, Gypsies dont really get much attention and respect all around the world because of the Indian blood-flow…

    Reyes got physically abused in England and verbally abused in Madrid(though the Madristas are known to hate all other sub-races in Spain, he was signed by a Argentinian sporting director nonetheless)… The media of course dont care because he is an Indian… Arsene Wenger was big hearted enough to take at the first place but his career was ruined by the English media, referees and Neville brothers… Nobody cared because he is an Indian… The only reason he is still in Atletico is because of three Gypsy directors on borad… Felling at ease and at home, now we slowly can witness what Reyes is capable of…

    All these information are valid and non-argumentative facts based on real-live situations… I have friends and sources all around the world(including Real Madrid FC) and I am grateful enough to know how people treat the Gypsies in reality… I’m white but studied the Gypsy history for 20 years and wrote 5 books about it… Unfortunately, the publishers bought the copyright of the book and refused to sell it to the main-stream media and to the public…

    It’s truely is a fateful life, Jose Antonio Reyes has being living…

  33. James says:

    Great read. I wasn’t aware of this player’s history and it was spelled out with great compassion and insight.

    Cheers.

  34. [...] the fateful life of jose antonio reyes – whoateallthepies.tv talk about another blast from the past, though not quite so far back as the “divine ponytail.” this is a great article on the meteoric rise and tumultuous fall of the atlético madrid forward. until reading this, i had completely forgotten how once-upon-a-time we all (and i mean all) thought that JAR was the next big thing in world football. at fault for this forgetfulness are my memories of his horrendous last year at arsenal and the slightly less horrendous year after at madrid (though i do suppose we owe him for that 30th league title). either way, it’s comical to think that we once thought that he was the better prospect than ronaldo. [...]

  35. Vinay says:

    An absolutely brilliant article about a player who could well have go on to be a legend for both Arsenal and Spain but for petty politics and a delicate mindset. Reyes was magical, he could do no wrong when came over to us(i am a life long Arsenal fan) and what was stunning was the ease at which he could read and play the game. I completely agree to the point that at times, he would eclipse even Henry with his sheer ability. His goal against Chelsea still lingers on in memory brightly even today.
    The game against Manu was shambolic in terms of refereeing and more so the attitude of Manu team on the whole. it was so blatant to see them literally hack him to the ground on every damn instance and as usual it was conveniently ignored by the ref.
    Reyes was a player who lived by the old school of playing football, play and let play kinds whereas in today’s generation it doesnt work like that. Reyes is so much like Arsenal, a fantastic player if allowed to play ala like our team.
    When the god of football Zizzou says such words about him, you know he was special.
    A classic winger is a rarity and even today when you see him, we at Arsenal realize what very well may have happened if he were to have stayed.
    People like Aragones, Neville brothers are never questioned but when you see such a wonderful career drifting away, i hope everyone realizes what they did.

  36. RedSkywalker says:

    Great article but lets be honest. If your gonna blame your failing career on one game and something a coach said then your too week to become a truly successful footballer.
    I think he can just blame himself, he isn’t unlucky he’s just weak.
    He’s messing around with mid-table teams for a reason. Personally I don’t feel sorry for him at all.

    And regarding the part about him not getting the girl?!?!
    He’s a professional footballer, I’m sure theres skirt groveling at his feet every time he goes out.
    Or maby he suffers from chronic homesickness everytime he does go out…

  37. Exmanc says:

    There is a huge media (read London based media) myth that the Neville brothers physically marked Reyes for life in that game with Arsenal.
    It’s just not true…he was subject to a few hard tackles, certainly no more than CR himself experienced in most games, and was taken off.
    He wasnt taken off by stretcher but managed to walk all by himself. The treatment that Joey Barton received recently against Wolves was much worse. So pls dont try and blame the Nevilles for his failure to rech his potential.

  38. glider says:

    Interesting article but ” ‘Appy ‘Ammer” Jacob has a selective memory.

    If any player should have walked in the 2004 United v Arsenal game, Ashley Cole was prime candidate for his crude assasination attempts on Ronaldo in the first few minutes. The ref bottled this, Arsene never saw any problems but justice was served with 2-0. Even if it did stick in the craw of the collective London media-ocracy.

    To suggest that Reyes, who was a talented player failed due to one game is “flawed” or “lazy” or “non” journalism. Take your pick. Jacob has ruined his own artcle with such utterly naive observations.

  39. Dermot says:

    Jesus – the Neville brothers to blame?! Reyes spent that match diving like it was going out of fashion. There were about 2 or 3 genuine fouls on him in the entire game.

    Ronaldo has been kicked up and down English and Spanish pitches for the last 6 or 7 years, and is still there.

    If Reyes is/was unable to take close attention from Gary Neville then the truth is he was never cut out to be anything other than an average Matty Etherington/Stewart Downing type.

  40. Jacob says:

    Glider – Please don’t accuse me of flawed, lazy or non journalism when it seems clear you’re unable to read given that the paragraph about that game ends: “This is perhaps the critical moment of his time at Arsenal, the moment when it crystallised that maybe English football wasn’t for him. But it’s not the key moment in his career. No match, no matter how much of a mark it left on you (and Reyes had loads, the Nevilles made sure of that), can be that definitive.”

    Come back when you’re able to pay full attention. Ta.

  41. steelydan says:

    As pointed out above, it was ashley cole who started the party with a set of scything challenges on ronaldo. Typical of arsenal fans to only remember what the other side did while hypocritically ignoring their own teams violent nature. Reyes received one hard challenge from gary who was yellow carded for it (arsenal whiners, the ref did notice), and a few minutes later, he did run at gary who desperately beckoned for someone else to go in hard which phil did. Was reyes fault that he then fearfully opted out of the game, no one elses. Arsenal were pretty dirty themselves but the winners of that game did not need to find excuses later. Great article jacob but the blaming of the nevilles is lazy and wrong. Arse fans do not need another excuse to have a moan, avoid feeding them on a plate.

  42. jack white says:

    Interesting article. Reyes was a colossal talent who just didn’t have the cojones to make it in a foreign country. Once a player starts getting homesick you know he’s not made of the stuff that truly great players are made of.

    Strange that he’s primarily remembered for the game at Old Trafford that ended Arsenal’s 49 game unbeaten run. In reality the attention given to him by the Nevilles didn’t really make much difference to the scoreline. Mike Riley’s ludicrously one-sided performance was always going to give United the win. Long before Reyes got kicked Rio Ferdinand had committed a last-man-back foul that Riley pretended not to notice because he knew that he would have to produce a red card otherwise. Van Nistrooy’s venomous assault on Ashley Cole was a hell of a lot worse than anything that happened to Reyes, but it too was ignored (although the Dutchman later got a 3 game ban for it) and when Rooney dived in the general vicinity of an Arsenal defender Riley’s job was done. Reyes was not the story that day. United and Ronaldo were not the story that season either finishing several points adrift of Arsenal and Chelsea again.

    So you can’t blame the Nevilles for Reyes’ downfall. He had the talent but he didn’t have the guts. Nevertheless, he has a Premier League winners medal and a Primera Liga winners medal too along with his FA Cup winners medal. And he played in a Champions League Final. It’s hardly a failed career.

    One mistake in the article though. He wasn’t sent off in the Cup Final for a crude lunge on Ronaldo. His second yellow was for a slight tug on Ronaldo’s shoulder. Ronaldo went down holding his face in one of those wholly unconvincing sniper-in-the-crowd moments, just like he did a few weeks ago playing for Real Madrid. Some people never change.

  43. Denis Hurley says:

    Brilliant article, Jacob.

  44. Keysersoze says:

    Excellent article. Arsenal fans were mad when that prank phone call happened and were glad when he was loan exchanged for Julio baptista. But when you look back at it all after the water has settled down you do feel a bit of sadness for how things might have turned out.

  45. roo says:

    reyes was the most natural talented player(in england) ive seen in my time better than henry/ronaldo/arshavin whoever he was the man.

  46. Craig says:

    Gpod article Jacob. I liked Reyes and was puzzled and disappointed that he faded out of Arsenal, A point about the Aragones thing – “negro de mierda” does not mean “black shit” – it is worse and more racist. Negro is the noun not the adjective.

  47. Pierluigi Collina says:

    The same United game that Arsenal fans constantly moan about because of the aggressive nature of United’s play. Wait, which team conceded more fouls and recieved more yellow cards that game, oh yeah, it was Arsenal wasn’t it.

    Arsenal fans, always blaming others for their failures.

  48. Vishal says:

    Blaming United for Reyes’ decline is ABU’ery at it’s finest. Seriously, come off it. Magnifying each of his individual experiences takes away from the whole package, a player who just wasn’t comfortable in England. To suggest the Neville brothers helped tug and shove him out is ludicrous, any player coming to play football in England would expect to be kicked on the pitch.

  49. gib says:

    Thinking that this article blames United for Reyes’ decline is Manchester United paranoia at it’ finest. Seriously, come off it. The article attempts to look at the whole package rather than individual experiences, aware that this was a player uncomfortable in England. To suggest that the Neville brothers helped tug and shove him out is widely cited as the reason but any player coming to football in England would expect to be kicked on the pitch, it’s what makes us undisputed world champions.

  50. Nick says:

    I was at the “infamous” game and seem to remember Phil Neville as man of the match….best game he ever played for United,played like a man possesed…hard but fair.
    It was never a penalty though…

  51. Paul says:

    Great article. Good to see attention paid to a great talent who didn’t make it to the very top (but who, let’s face it, has had a pretty good professional career). Shame to see the writer buy into the London media myth about the Arsenal Man U game. The ref did ok in difficult circs. Arsenal committed more, and more cynical, fouls (especially on CR) than Man U on the day, though neither team covered themselves in glory. Not really relevant to the Reyes story, so a pity to give the game so much prominence in this article.

  52. glider says:

    Mr Jacob – Mea Culpa!

    Yes, the inference to be drawn is that the game at Old Trafford acted as a tipping point in the Engliosh career rather than the total career(to date) of Reyes. I stand corrected.

    Talking about corrections, it was interesting to read that several of the bloggerati had a divergent view from you of the Nevilles’ role in that game. It would be better to actually provide facts within a context rather than a tawdry revisionist history which lacked credibility.

    Thank you kindly.

  53. Danko says:

    Talk about rewriting the past to sensationalise the article. The brief period of form Reyes showed at Arsenal is waaaaaay overstated.

  54. Simmo says:

    “reyes was the most natural talented player(in england) ive seen in my time better than henry/ronaldo/arshavin whoever he was the man.”

    More so than Bergkamp?! Never!

  55. Hysteria says:

    Extremely interesting piece of writing, a long essay but I could not move my eyes off it till the very end! Also a laudable attempt to rehabilitate a player who has gone into oblivion.

    I think Reyes was actually good during his season at Real Madrid. His contribution was crucial in their title win. Plus his role in the successful Europa League campaign of 2010 is understated by your otherwise thorough article: Reyes was as important as Forlan or Aguero. In the return leg at Anfield against the Reds, he was impressive on the right wing; he had improved a lot from his Arsenal games, adding pinpoint precision passing to his already impressive dribbling and pace. He was one of the main reasons why Liverpool were so tired during those 30 min of extra time.

    Your connection with Ronaldo is interesting and one I already reflected upon previously. Both arrived in England at the same time, and seemed destined for great things. One (Reyes) started better than the other, but in the end, ended up not making the most of his potential, unlike Ronaldo.

    Another enlightening comparison would be with Fernando Torres. Both of them (along with Iniesta) were part of the Spain U19 squad that won the European Championship in 2002. Yet while Reyes left his hometown club at the first occasion, Torres waited for the right moment to do so. Reyes was 20 when he joined Arsenal, Torres was 23 when he made the move. He was ready for the big move, unlike young and homesick Reyes. (When he signed for Liverpool in July 2007, one English paper, either the Guardian or the Independent, did mention the comparison between the two, and said that unlike Reyes, Torres had a good chance of adapting to England because he was mature and had a more open mind than Reyes, who had never lived elsewhere than Spanish countryside before he moved to England. How right.) The rest is history: while Torres has made his name as one of the best footballers in the world, Reyes has become a forgotten man.

    One aspect of their careers where Reyes beats El Nino though is the amount of silverware won at club level. La Liga 2007 with Real Madrid, the Premier league 2004 and FA Cup 2005 with Arsenal, and Europa League with Atletico. Poor Torres has won nothing at club level, unlike Reyes (and Iniesta, who started out with them, I should add); his only trophies have been won with Spain.

    There are days where I really think I’d love to see Reyes and Torres playing together, for the same coulours again. They were terrific for Spain. Maybe one day, if ever Torres comes back to Atletico, and if Reyes is still there… his good form is so transient, one never knows when he may be sold.

  56. webboy says:

    Rod (12th; 1.08pm)…You didnt image it, he scored the own goal on his debut in the Carling Cup againt Boro

  57. [...] Steinberg is a pulsating football brain for The Guardian (and others), occasional Pies writer, and a top chap to boot. Follow him on the [...]

  58. You should all see him now, playing for Atletico de MADRID.
    Because of Quique Sanchez FLORES, Jose has been given a new lease of footballing ‘life’ to say the least. Some of his goals, thus far, have been spectacular.I have been following his ups and downs since he came to Arsenal in Feb.2004.
    He is on the cusp on being one of the greatest midfielders…

  59. Reyes fan says:

    Ferdinand chopped down Ljundberg when he was clean through.
    Should have seen red. Neville brothers had one hack at Retes each.
    Worth two yellows. Sol Campbell stuck out his leg. Fair penalty.

  60. Richard says:

    I don’t know what football you were watching, but he was never even close to being the best football player at Arsenal at any point. He wasn’t ever ‘awesome’ and he certainly wasn’t ‘unplayable’ and only incredibly stupid people or people who know very little about football might have said he was better than Henry. He was a decent player for part of the season, that’s about it.

  61. alan B'stard MP (@alanBStardmp) says:

    good to get Reyes back

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