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Last Updated: Tuesday, 27 January, 2004, 20:52 GMT
Arsenal's latest young starlet
By John Sinnott

Jose Antonio Reyes
Arsenal's move for Jose Antonio Reyes is a sign of Arsene Wenger's decision to stake the club's future on youth, according to former manager Don Howe.

The Gunners will pay a reported 10.5m fee for the 20-year-old, rising to 17.5m based on appearances.

Howe said: "If a scout came to Arsene and recommended a player I think his first question would be, not how much the player is, but how old is he.

"And if he is 20 then he would be interested," Howe told BBC Sport.

Reyes, who is more provider than out-and-out goalscorer, made his Sevilla debut as a 16-year-old in 2000 and started receiving widespread attention two seasons ago.

He scored eight league goals last season as he made it to the fringe of the full Spanish international squad with a string of outstanding displays from the right side of attack.

Reyes, who was given a hero's send-off by hundreds of fans as he left Sevilla's stadium for London on Tuesday evening, has caught the eye for a number of reasons:

  • He plays in white boots with pace and flair, and is always keen to take players on, often several in a row.

  • Spain's best-selling sports newspaper, Marca, described him as "quite simply a superstar, spectacular - dribbling, magic, vision and goals wrapped in one".

  • His exuberant skills have made him the most fouled player in Spain.

  • He was instrumental in Sevilla's 4-1 thrashing of Real Madrid this season.

Sevilla, currently 15th in the Spanish league, managed to fend off interest from some of Europe's biggest clubs and persuaded Reyes to sign a new seven-year contract in July.

He made his full international debut against Portugal in a friendly in September and went on to play in three qualifying games for Euro 2004, scoring twice.

Howe believes Wenger has pulled off a major coup in getting Reyes, who has scored five goals this season, to agree to join Arsenal.

"You listen to Arsene at media conferences and all the time he is talking about young players. His first-team is okay and they can still go hard for the title. He also thinks they will do well in Europe.

"He can also mould these young stars into the type of the player he wants."

REYES FACTFILE
Born: 1 September, 1983
Sevilla debut: 30 January, 2000 v Real Zaragoza
Spain debut: 6 September, 2003 v Portugal
First Spain goal: 11 October, 2003 v Armenia

Howe added that Wenger's decision to move for Reyes was also a pre-emptive strike to prepare for a possible striker shortage at Arsenal come the summer.

Dennis Bergkamp is close to retirement, Sylvain Wiltord has stalled on signing a new contract, while both Real Madrid and Chelsea have made no secret of their admiration for Thierry Henry.

"There have been a lot of stories of Henry going to Chelsea or Real Madrid. I don't know whether there is any truth in them.

"I don't think there is any truth in them. Henry is happy with Arsenal, with Arsene Wenger and his life in London, but by buying Reyes he would be in position in the summer to say Henry can go if push comes to shove."

Howe said: "I don't think Arsene is worried about paying a lot of money for a player if he fancies him.

"In a few years Reyes will be still worth a lot of money."



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