Reyes was just 20 when he joined Arsenal

Its common knowledge that when a player comes with a hefty price tag the weight of expectation becomes just that little bit more.
Numerous players have signed to great fanfare and have gone on to produce the goods but an equal amount have done the opposite. One such player being Spaniard Jose Antonio Reyes.

Many will argue that he is not a flop as he ended his spell in England with a Premier League medal, a FA Cup medal and was a runner up as Arsenal lost to Barcelona in the 2006 Champions League.

But with the massive reputation he came with, it is more than obvious that Reyes did not come anywhere near to fulfilling the potential that caused the normally frugal Arsene Wenger to splash out £10.5m (rising to £17m with add ons)

Reyes built a huge reputation for himself in Spain playing for Sevilla and made his debut at just 16 years old. His performances captured the eye of both Barcelona and Real Madrid as well as numerous other European teams. But Reyes’ relationship with the club’s fans made a move to another Spanish club unlikely so in the January transfer window of the 03-04 season, to the chagrin of his manager who wished to retain his services, the 20 year old joined Arsenal. I can still remember the scenes of him at the airport being shown on Sky Sports News as it looked like Arsenal had snapped up a little gem.

He impressed in Arsenal’s unbeaten season in the league and in cup competitions with goals against Chelsea in the FA Cup and Champions League.

At the start of his first full season he scored in each of the opening 6 games but Reyes was clearly struggling to hack it in the faster, tougher Premier League. This was never more evident than in Arsenal’s 2-0 loss to Man United that ended their unbeaten streak at 49 games where Gary and Phil Neville roughed Reyes up no end with crunching tackles and fouls.

This was the start of Reyes’ indifferent form as rumours swirled that the Spaniard was homesick and had already grown disenchanted with Life in London. Reyes found himself on the receiving end of a cold prank by COPE radio in Spain when a DJ pretending to be Emilio Butragueño spoke to Reyes and his agent about a move back to Spain. In the conversation that was aired, Reyes admitted he was homesick and that a move back to Spain was possible. He also went on to add that there were bad people at the club that could force him out.

Despite this he grabbed 3 vital goals towards the end of the season and although becoming only the second man to be sent off in an FA Cup final, he would end speculation about a move away from the club by signing a new 6 year deal.

It must be taken into consideration that Reyes was very young when he moved to England thus he would struggle as every person adapts to change differently but his attitude did not help and after Arsenal’s run in the Champions League which saw them reach the 2006 final (losing to Barcelona), Reyes told the club he did not wish to play in a CL qualifier against Dinamo Zagreb as it would cup tie him and rule him out of a move to Real Madrid.

Wenger left him out and Reyes’ comments in the Spanish media effectively saw the end of his time in North London. A deal was soon reached with Madrid as Reyes was swapped with Julio Baptista (himself a candidate for this column had Arsenal paid for his services) for a season long loan.

His time in England had affected him and Reyes failed to impress on his loan at the Bernabeau and thus joined city rivals Atletico Madrid instead for less than Arsenal had paid Sevilla 3 years ago.

Before his move to Arsenal, Reyes was being touted as one of football’s hottest prospects but such an experience so early in his career disrupted his development and after a poor spell at Benfica he has now returned to Atletico Madrid. At 26 his career is nowhere near over but he will wonder about the heights he could have scaled if he had attempted to walk before he tried to run.


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  • Mark Greenwood
    5 years ago

    He was a good player but homesickness played a big part. Has lost confidence since then with both Atletico and Benfica which hasn’t helped his performances

    Reply
  • Football games schedule
    5 years ago

    Despite all of your mentioned point about jose, i still think he is good player he just need to build up his confidence again.

    Reply
  • benficamad
    5 years ago

    he did very well at benfica actually we just didnt want to pay the price madrid was asking for

    Reply
  • Chudi Onwuazor
    5 years ago

    Not to my understanding Benfica mad but judging by your username, I won’t argue the point with you lol

    And Football games Schedule I agree I feel in the current game if a player hasnt become a star by lets say 23 then they are not deemed as quality but players develop differently and he is only 26. I prefer to look at the whole career before classing someone as a flop.

    Reply
  • Kris Wilcox
    5 years ago

    I think the key point with Reyes is that he is the popular example for opposing fans to quote when looking for negative blots in Wenger’s transfer dealings. Reyes was never a true flop in the same way as players like Jeffers and Richard Wright were, only they tend to be forgotten due to a general viewpoint that Wenger dislikes signing English players! I think for a true definition of a flop you’ve got to look at the amount of money that was paid and question whether it was that ridiculous. When you consider a player like Veron (for both United and Chelsea) or Mendieta, at Lazio, Reyes simply cannot be viewed in the same class. Signing a player of that age always represents a risk, as shown by Nani at United, and the player we got at only 20 years of age was probably worth what Wenger paid. Whilst I agree with everything you said about attitude and home-sickness the biggest problem was, quite frankly, that he simply never improved as a player. Only once since those brilliant FA cup goals against Chelsea has Reyes shown such ability – in winning La Liga on the last day of the season almost singlehandedly for Real Madrid. The fact for the rest of his period in Spain and Portugal, at Real, Atletico and Benfica he has clearly underperformed shows me one thing, that he ultimately never developed into a player able to consistently prove his considerable ability. Though, as you rightly point out, his career is hardly over at 26!

    Reply
  • Chudi Onwuazor
    5 years ago

    I agree with your point about not improving, and I remember that final day for Madrid as well, that brace is very much forgotten.

    Reply
  • James Martin
    5 years ago

    I’ve always been a fan of Reyes and it’s sad to see him struggling. I heard he did ok with Benfica though.

    Reply
  • SA gooner
    5 years ago

    He was an excellent player but Thierry Henri would not play with him, rarely involved him and generally made Reyes life a misery on the pitch. No wonder he lost his confidence and it is to Wenger’s shame that he allowed Henri to ride roughshod over Reyes’ undoubted talent. It was Arsenal’s loss.

    Reply