Claudio Reyna knows all too well the tough decisions that lie ahead for his son, the talented American teenager Gio Reyna, but as much as the former U.S. national team captain and current New York City FC sporting director has plenty of knowledge to share, he believes the final decision on where the 15-year-old NYCFC academy star begins his pro career should rest with the player, not the parent.
Sports Illustrated reported Wednesday that Gio Reyna is considering a move to Europe, with the help of a Portuguese passport he is in the process of trying to secure. Reyna’s talent has drawn the attention of several top European clubs, and sources tell Goal it led Adidas to sign Reyna to an endorsement deal during the summer, at the age of 14. It might come as a surprise to some that Reyna’s father wouldn’t be steering him toward NYCFC’s first team, but in an interview with Goal earlier in the fall, Claudio Reyna made it clear the decision on where Gio begins his professional career will be up to Gio.
“I’m a dad first, and I will support whatever he wants to do,” Reyna told Goal. “The thing about a player at 14, 15, 16 is they’re going to make their own decision. They’re going to take everything in and see. It all depends. It’s case by case. It’s certainly, for me, one that’s difficult of course, being sporting director of a club here. But he knows around him all the time I’m his dad first. I’m there to support him, to teach him. Not to tell him he’s great, but that he’s got a long way to go, he’s got to continue to work and develop good habits and to continue to guide him.”
If Gio Reyna does decide to make the move to Europe, he would join a growing list of top American talents making the jump to overseas as teenagers, joining the likes of Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie and Josh Sargent, who will officially begin his pro career in February with Bundesliga side Werder Bremen when he turns 18.
Gio Reyna would be able to make a move to Europe before the age of 18 once he secures the Portugal passport he is reportedly pursuing by virtue of his grandmother being Portuguese.
As for where Claudio Reyna thinks would be best for his son, the Premier League and Bundesliga veteran believes that the path isn’t as important as the player’s performances on the pitch no matter where he is playing.
“There’s no one path that will get you where you want to get,” Claudio Reyna said. “He’s got a long way to go. He’s only 15. Either path, or any path can work. I played in high school and college and made a career, and there are still players doing that too.
“There’s no exact path for every player. As I would tell any young player, it’s really up to you how far you go,” he added. “It’s not a coach or environment. It’s very simple. You’ve got to perform, you have to prove it coach after coach after coach. You have to beat out your teammates to get into the team, you have to play well. It’s not a secret.”
With Pulisic having broken through at Dortmund at the age of 17, and McKennie at 19, the bar has been raised for American teenagers in Europe, and that could lead Gio Reyna to follow their lead, which would mean leaving behind the same NYCFC development setup led by his father. That’s something Claudio Reyna says he would be perfectly fine with.
“What I would say is the decision, ultimately, is going to be him, and he’s going to get a feeling that ‘this is what I want, this is what I want for my future’,” Claudio Reyna said. “So when he gets there, I’m going to support him 100 percent.”