One thing that stands out in football players is the mental strength it takes to play this beautiful game. Ability it seems is nothing without will power.
Jose Antonio Reyes came to Arsenal as a virtual unknown teenager and smashed the transfer record at 17 million pounds. Every Arsenal fan was excited as we watched this kid hold up the red and white. It was unheard off for Wenger to splash out that much money on a kid, no matter how much talent there was.
At first Reyes struggled to adapt but the patience of an Arsenal fan is renowned and we cheered every time he touched the ball. I remember a through ball on his debut and Highbury erupted at the thought of a goal in his first game. It never happened but the signs were there. Even on a cold night in the Carling Cup where Reyes undoubtedly had his worst ever game in his career, ending the night with a goal in his own net, had the faithful Gooners singing his name. We all knew the possibilities and no Gooner out there was about to heap any further pressure on a player that was at that time a crowd favourite.
Then to a FA Cup tie against Chelsea. A game that, if we look back, Chelsea deserved the lead they had. That is until Jose Antonio Reyes announced his arrival with a goal that will forever live in the memory of every Gooner from that time. An absolute screamer that flew into top left hand corner of Chelsea’s goal. Ljungberg was speechless, Vieira was rooted and the Arsenal faithful were practically crying from pure joy for the kid. As we know he even went a step further and wrapped it up for us with a well taken second. And so the relationship began. He got better and better and by the start of the following season had scored 6 goals in as little games.
Suddenly 17 million was a bargain. Reyes had everything! He was loved by every Arsenal fan the world over. So what went wrong? How does a player go from being so settled and fired up to wanting nothing more than a ticket home? Family! He missed his parents, so he bought a house and brought his mother and father over to stay with him. His home was turned into a Spanish castle and everything should have settled. But then we here small things start leaking through the woodworks. His radio interview with the Spanish media. This is what gave it all away. While talking to the DJ there was a quote from his mother in the background repeating a certain phrase “Bad People”. It was not Reyes that despised living in England, it was his mother and possibly his father.
Imagine coming home every night to someone continuously moaning about the whether, the people, the food and everything else. Of’ course it was going to affect him and it got so bad that all he could focus on was getting away. He instigated everything from continuously talking to the Spanish media, refusing to play and even wearing the Real Madrid shirt in public. Did he care that even after everything the Arsenal fans, the players and even Wenger still tried everything to keep him? No. He did not have the mental strength to deal with his issues and get on with the game. He is back in Spain now and playing for the team he wanted. But what is he going to do if Real are not interested in a permanent deal for him and Arsenal doesn’t get a sufficient offer for him come summer? It poses a very interesting question.
Perhaps Reyes can take a leaf out of Cesc’s book? He cost Arsenal virtually nothing and continues to demonstrate a mentality that is both admirable and mature for his age. We may have broken all transfer records with the purchase of Jose Antonio Reyes but Cesc is worth 10 of him both on and off the field.