30 July, the Invincible Jose Antonio Reyes, left Arsenal.

by Tony Attwood

He had just had a season long loan with Real Madrid, playing 30 games for them, having played 69 for Arsenal across three seasons.

Reyes is one of the players who was part of the unbeaten season whose name is sometimes forgotten when remembering that year.  Pascal Cygan got 10 starts, only two short of Parlour, for example.  And Joes Antonio Reyes started 7 and was a sub in 6.

Reyes was born 1 September 1983, started with Sevilla aged 16, and joined Arsenal aged 20 having played 86 games for Sevilla.  He managed 69 league starts for Arsenal between 2004 and 2007 before going to Real Madrid on loan, then Atlético Madrid then Benfica on loan then Sevilla to which he returned in 2012.

Overall for us he only scored 16 goals, but they came in bursts, most notably six in six at the start of the 2004/5 season.  Otherwise, he just didn’t happen for him and inconsistency was the name of his game.

There were always stories about Reyes.  He was from a Romani family (Gitanos) and the tales were from the start that not only could he not speak English, but also that could hardly be understood by his teammates in Spain, because of the thickness of his accent.   He only liked the local food that his family provided, and in essence, was endlessly homesick for a totally different lifestyle – although it is said his parents and his brother moved to England to be with him.

On 21 May 2005, he was sent off in the FA Cup Final, only the second player to suffer the indignity but then signed a new six-year contract soon after and in 2006 played in the Champions League final.

But after that, it was all downhill, with Real Madrid taking up the role of targeting players and deliberately unsettling them.

In the summer of 2006 Reyes left for Real in a one-year exchange deal with Júlio Baptista.  On 30 July 2007 it was announced Reyes had left Arsenal for good.

On 1 June 2019, Reyes died at the age of 35 following a car accident while travelling with his cousins, Jonathan Reyes, who also died, and Juan Manuel Calderón, who was taken to a hospital in serious condition.   Stories circulated about the speed of the car being 135mph, but these were disputed.

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