Jose Antoino Reyes

Before the arrival of Andrey Arshavin, Jose Antonio Reyes was the record transfer signing for Arsenal Football Club. While the fee was never as high as the press consistently quotes (neither is Arshavin’s), he never achieved the heights that I’m sure Wenger once thought he might be able to reach.

When he arrived, he was immediately in the mix for playing time, even amongst the vaunted Invincibles squad. On the Arsenal Season Review dvd for that year, you can hear Reyes detailing a lengthy answer while the voiceover answer merely says “I love English football.” With his contributions to the squad, including a rocket shot goal against Chelsea, most were completely convinced that the fee would eventually end up being fully justified.

Everyone must now know that Wenger scouts players extensively. At the time, when he made that bid, he had to be sure Reyes would be worth the gamble. He had almost singlehandedly destroyed Real Madrid and had become an icon at a rising Sevilla team. Wenger thought he had signed a future star, and to be fair, that’s what he appeared to be for his first 12 months at Arsenal. Wenger stated:

“He has played for Sevilla up front on his own, as a supporting striker and he has played on the left recently. He can be adaptable; he can even play on the right. This player is an investment. He is 20 years old and he’s already an international.”

What exactly happened to a player that Wenger was so excited to get?

The facts have been recounted by many. The lack of protection from the refs, the constant hounding by Thierry Henry, his naive demeanor, and a brutal match against Manchester United are a few reasons.

Let’s look closer at some of these facts.

Reyes was the most fouled player in the Premier League. He was constantly hacked to bits, and considering that he had such a blazing start to his career, when a dip came, he struggled. I think this is one of the hardest things for a player to get used to when arriving in England. Quite simply, the idea of letting things slide in order to emphasize the English spirit is absolute crap. While people in England laugh over players getting injured and using defenses like “he got the ball,” the rest of the world shakes their head. Reyes was systematically taken apart by the Neville brothers, and not enough was done to protect him.

He was homesick. He had to take an interpreter to the video store in order to rent DVD’s. This indicates that he wasn’t ready to live by himself and maybe he never will be. It may contribute to the unhappiness of the player, and it may affect form drastically.

Last, people honestly believe that Thierry Henry played a great role in the demise of Jose Antonio Reyes. They believe that his constant sour attitude made Reyes wilt instead of blossom. After recently witnessing Kobe Bryant lead his team to the NBA Championship, it’s hard to put any sort of merit to this line of criticism.

As we stand today, Benfica refuses to pay 8 million euros to make the transfer from Atletico Madrid final. Reyes has helped Real Madrid win La Liga in dramatic fashion, and they didn’t want him.

The bottom line is, Reyes was not good enough. Paying large amounts of money never guarantees anything, even when scouted by a man as great as Wenger.

All of the reasons I’ve detailed for Reyes’ failure could have been overcome by a better player. There are hundreds of talented streetball players who could never make it in the NBA.

In our team, we need strong individuals. Reyes was never that.

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