Claudio Reyna

October 14, 2013

Full name: Claudio Reyna

DOB: 20/07/73

POB: Livingston, New Jersey, United States

Position: Centre midfield, right back

Clubs: Bayer Leverkusen, VfL Wolfsburg, Rangers, Sunderland, Manchester City, New York Red Bulls

International caps: 111

The wealth of talent that Rangers possessed during the Dick Advocaat era makes the
Scottish career of Claudio Reyna somewhat of an afterthought. The technically complete midfielder was a outstanding member of Rangers 2000 double winning squad, he just didn’t arrive with a worldwide reputation (the De Boer brothers) or an inflated transfer tag (Tore Andre Flo). What he did possess, and continued to demonstrate, was outstanding ball
control, vision and passing abilities that could make him untouchable in the
centre of the park.

The son of
an Argentine, he was born and raised in Livingston,
New Jersey, and excelled at
football in both high school and college. During his time at the University of Virginia
he played under future US Soccer Head Coach Bruce Arena and impressed the
current boss Bora Milutinović enough to earn a spot on the USA ’94 World
Cup squad. Injury stopped him from featuring in the US hosted tournament, but Bayer Leverkusen had already
been alerted to his talents and snatched him up a month after the completion of
the finals. He struggled to earn a regular starting role with Leverkusen
but began to demonstrate his abilities after being granted greater
responsibility during a loan move to Wolfsburg.
All the while he continued to play for the United
States team and made his first World Cup appearance in
1998 in a 2-0 group game defeat to Germany. The momentum from the 1994
tournament failed to transfer over to the subsequent finals with America losing all three group games, including
a shock 2-1 loss to Iran,
and going home early. Reyna put the disappointment behind him by continuing
to impress at Wolfsburg
and alerting the attention of other clubs, including the Advocaat led revolution
at Ibrox.

Reyna was
signed to Rangers on April 11, 1999, in the days before the transfer window
prohibited such late season movement. He was immediately illegible and able to
work his way into the starting XI for one of the most notorious matches in
Scottish football history. Rangers, with four games remaining, were all but
assured of the title. Celtic, led by Dr Josef Venglos, were just looking to postpone
the celebrations long enough so that they didn’t occur at Celtic Park. Amid the red cards, pitch invasions and ref-seeking coins, Reyna displayed a classy performance in the centre of the park to
defy the chaos in Rangers 3-0 win. From joining until the end of the season he made six appearances, which wasn’t enough to get him a league winners medal despite his role in that game. He was also unavailable to play in the Scottish Cup Final. He would more than make up for those twin disappointments the following campaign.

midfielder was a mainstay throughout 1999-2000; making 42
appearances and chipping in with a few goals as he and Barry Ferguson built a dominant
midfield pairing. His most valuable goal came just a couple of
weeks into his first full season when Rangers met Parma with a place in the UEFA
Champions League group stages at stake. The Italians had knocked Rangers out of European
competition the previous campaign so revenge was very much on the cards when
the two sides clashed at Ibrox. Dick Advocaat’s side blew them away in a 2-0 demolition
that could easily have saw the margin of victory doubled. Reyna scored the all
important second goal after half-time – drilling a low shot from 15 yards
underneath the keeper – giving them the advantage required to advance after
surviving a tense 1-0 defeat in the second leg. Throughout the campaign Reyna
demonstrated his class in the midfield as the Ibrox side went on to lift the
League and Cup double.

Given the
troubles he suffered later in his career, it’s a surprise that the legendary
Ibrox injury list during the Advocaat years didn’t extend to the American. He
did miss some time during the 2000/01 campaign but not to lengthy extent that some of
his teammates remained on the sidelines. The problems this created for the
squad led to Reyna being deployed in an unfamiliar right back role. The
flawless technique he possessed could realistically have allowed him to play
anywhere on the park and still excel in Scottish football. Despite the
demonstration of versatile proficiency from their American, the 2000-01 season was not a happy one
for Rangers as they were second best to Martin O’Neill’s Celtic for the
majority. A great start in the Champions League also died away after Advocaat’s men failed to win any of their remaining four games despite taking six points from
their first two. The player himself will have bittersweet memories of this season having
netted his first Old Firm goal to level the scores in a September clash at Celtic Park,
only for the hosts to run out 6-2 winners. He and Rangers would earn some retribution in a 5-1 New Year’s derby win, although Celtic would take the title,

it proved to be his last year with the club. Rangers reportedly offered him a substantial wage rise in the hope of building for the future around his
talents. Reyna knocked back the offer and made it clear to the club hierarchy
that he wished to move to the English Premier League. Sunderland
were the club happy to receive such talent at a cut price fee of little over
£2million. Reyna’s exit further incensed the previously adoring Ibrox faithful
when he suggested he was not only moving to a bigger league but to a bigger club
by leaving Govan for Wearside.

His first
season in the North East of England saw the degeneration of the overachieving Sunderland side assembled by Peter Reid and led by the
Niall Quinn-Kevin Phillips partnership in attack. After challenging in the top half for two seasons they were lucky not to have
dropped out of the top flight in 2001/02 and many fans credit the play of
Reyna for giving them a stay of execution. That summer he went off to the World
Cup in Japan and South Korea and excelled in the United States
side that went further than any US team in history by reaching the quarter finals.
Reyna was superb in the last eight loss to Germany, a match where there was
little doubt the underdogs were the better side but they couldn’t find a way
past Oliver Kahn in goal. Reyna, for his efforts, was named among the list of the tournament’s best players. Sunderland fans were quickly
forgetting the disappointments of the previous campaign and eagerly looking
forward to the season once more.

The good
feeling would not last. Reyna spent most of the 2002/03 season sidelined with a
serious knee injury as Sunderland dropped like
a stone down the top flight table. Reid tried to regenerate his previous model
by bringing in Tore Andre Flo and Marcus Stewart to replace the ageing Phillips and Quinn. Both would be regarded as undoubted duds, however, it did
start well with Flo scoring to earn a 1-1 draw with Manchester United, a match
where Reyna was a standout in midfield. Had he been fit the entire season it
may have been a different story for Sunderland,
as it was he never again played that campaign and was forced to watch as Howard
Wilkinson and then Mick McCarthy led the club to a record low points total in
Premier League history.

Manchester City brought the player back to the
Premier League for the beginning of the following campaign. Unfortunately, for
both parties, they would be taught the dangerous of signing a player who has
just come back from serious injury. Reyna would be a regular in the Manchester City treatment room, limiting him to
only 87 appearances in three and a half seasons. When he was fit, however, he
was immediately inserted into the first team and was a popular player with the
fans. His advancing age and the team’s struggles at the wrong end of the table
eventually persuaded Stuart Pearce to part with the midfielder, selling him
back to the United States
and the New York Red Bulls. He may have landed back in a familiar environment but
it didn’t decrease the injury woes and he decided to retire in 2008.

“I’ll always fondly remember that goal against Parma. Not for the quality of the goal, which was decent, but for the importance in which it occurred. I deliriously danced around my livingroom after it hit the back of the net.

He was asked to play defensive midfield quite a lot which probably curtailed his abilities. At exciting times for the club – Gazza had just left and the Dutch invasion was in full effect – he probably came across as a bit of a dull player; a victim of being lost in the crowd. That’s certainly how it appeared to an impressionable young lad who had been reared on the storming abilities of the aforementioned Englishman.

Still, there was no doubt he was a dependable member of the squad and wasn’t too bad at set-pieces as well.

— Fraser Sargent, Rangers supporter

Where is he
This summer he was appointed Director of Football Operations by the
upcoming MLS franchise New York City FC. The team are part-owned by Manchester City and it is likely that his former
club connections helped him land the job.

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