Jose Antonio Reyes: the Invincible who never quite delivered

By Tony Attwood

It is still strange to me (although I was there) to remember some of the names that played in the Invincibles.  I mean, we all know Lehmann did the 38 games, something no one else achieved, and we remember Henry, Vieira, Pirès, Lauren, Toure, Cole, Campbell, Ljungberg, Gilberto Silva  – all playing 30 or so games.   And of course Bergkamp just a little way behind.

But the names of some of the players who were there also now (after such a short amount of time passing since the great events of the era), come back to me as a bit of a shock.   Pascal Cygan got 10 starts, only two short of Parlour, for example.  And Joes Antonio Reyes started 7 and was a sub in 6.  It seems (to me at least) hard to believe now that he was part of that campaign.

Yet Reyes came with such fanfares; the man bought amidst protests by the fans at his old club.   The great rising star.  And?

He was born 1 September 1983, started with Sevilla aged 16, joined Arsenal aged 20 having played 86 games for the team.  He managed 69 league starts for us between 2004/7 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 no only could he not speak English, but also that could hardly be understood by his team mates 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 his parents and his brother moved to England to be with him – so presumably he got mothers’ cooking.

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 we have since associated with Barcelona, of targeting players and deliberately unsettling them (they were also doing it to Cesc at the time, just to annoy Barca).

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.  No one really minded.

He is a player who, one might say, had his moments.  Those six in six for us, the two scored for Real Madrid to give them the championship… but then also a whole season with  Atletico Madrid in which he failed to score.

He is now back in Sevilla, and according to Wiki at the moment of writing this has scored five goals in 51 games – which seems to be his current level.  He remains a player who played in the Unbeaten Team, played in Cup Final and a Euro Cup Final, but really in the longer term, never delivered on his amazing promise and potential.

Arsenal History – the index

6 Replies to “Jose Antonio Reyes: the Invincible who never quite delivered”

  1. I think your pretty unfair to the lad. F.A cup semi against united Scholes went right through him (BBC giggle whlst he got a yellow as ‘tacklings not part of Scholes game). Game 50 after the 6 in 6 SAF targeted Reyes and kicked him to hell. Wouldn’t you kick back in the final?

    Also, Reyes was annoyed that he played 5 minutes in the euro final as a sub. Also, Henry hardly got on with him did he? And everything went through henry by then

  2. He was one of those players who just seemed to frustrate the hell out of me – he appeared to have bags of talent but just never quite ‘did it’. I seem to recall reading at the time that he had difficulty learning English?, which no doubt didn’t help him integrate into the group.

  3. I still remember well those two goals against Chelsea in the FA Cup after we had been one nil down. Great goals and unbridled joy on the Northbank.

  4. Les is right about the semi-final – Scholes & the Nevilles basically kicked him out of English football. He often needed attention on the field after that. I remember him robbing Van der Sar and scoring at Fulham!

  5. Terribly sad news of the death of Jose Antonio Reyes in a car crash near Seville in his native Spain, along with his cousin.

    He collected a lot of titles and cups in his career with different clubs and will always be remembered at Arsenal for his part when joining during the invincible season and the FA cup win the following year. Every so often he had flashes of brilliance.

    Lovely tributes from Unai Emery, who managed him at Sevilla, Arsene Wenger, who brought him to Arsenal, former colleagues Cesc Fabregas, Thierry Henry, Freddie Ljungberg and many others.


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