Atleti remain without a coach and without its most valuable assets, but at least one crucial figure remains. More than ever all eyes will be fixed on José Antonio Reyes next season.
Now 28 he seems to finally have found his place after struggling for so long. After his breakthrough at Sevilla at just 16 the winger was expected to have a big career ahead of him, but many years of disappointment followed, with none of his employers fully convinced by the player who seemed unable to pair his undeniable talent with consistency or fighting spirit.
But since Quique Sánchez Flores’ arrival in 2009 Reyes has cemented his place in Atlético’s starting XI and has become an integral part of our squad. José Antonio seems to be the only one of our current midfielders able to connect with the forwards, as he cleverly plays in between the lines.
Although most of this season’s spotlight shined on David de Gea and Sergio Agüero, the importance of la Liga’s most fouled player cannot be stressed enough.
He’s accustomed to sticking close to the touchline on his right wing, but in the past months he’s developed into a playmaker who roams all over the pitch. Not only has the Andalusian’s own productivity increased, he also allows his team-mates to score more often. This season Reyes delivered nine assists and netted seven goals; not bad considering it took the guy a season and a half to score his first Rojiblanco goal.
When Forlán was left off the team late this season, Quique decided to move Reyes to a more central position. Although he used to play as a second forward for Sevilla and Arsenal in his early days, this position as trequartista was new to the versatile forward. He was a natural, performing the role to perfection.
In our most recent games Reyes pulled the strings, reminding me of Juan Román Riquelme in his finer days as he delivered splicing throughballs to Agüero and Juanfran. On Saturday he was at the start of three goals in our 4-3 win over Mallorca in our last game of the campaign.
This season was arguably his most consistent of all and many Atlético supporters were hoping Vicente del Bosque would reward Reyes with a call up to the Spanish national team, but apparently the moustachioed Marquis from Salamanca prefers a certain Manu del Moral. It’s incomprehensible for us who’ve seen La Perla in action all year, knowing he deserves his first cap since 2006 more than any other Spaniard playing for Atleti in recent history.
It’s uncertain what formation Atlético will operate in next season or what players will be available to the new coach, but with Reyes, Juanfran and Salvio there is plenty of depth on the right wing, while we still lack a brain to make the team tick.
It seems Reyes will be the last player of top quality left from a team which had Simão, Forlán, Maxi and Agüero, so it’s essential that he’s made the protagonist of the team. As any coach will confirm your best player should be played in the centre and I feel it’s about time we make Reyes the focal point of this new Atlético.