Borussia Dortmund head coach Lucien Favre has sung the praises of Gio Reyna after the USA youth international became the fifth-youngest player in history to make his Bundesliga debut last weekend, saying “if you can’t see he has something special, you’re blind”.
Asked about Reyna in his pre-match press conference ahead of Friday’s Matchday 19 curtain-raiser at home to Cologne, Favre spoke for over one and a half minutes – his longest answer in the 11-minute media briefing – about the prodigious young American.
“He was in the USA with the team [on the pre-season tour] and before that he had trained with the side several times,” said the 62-year-old tactician, outlining the foundations that were laid for Reyna to thrive. “He’d trained with them a few times about 18 months ago, too. In the US he played against Liverpool and also against the Seattle Sounders.
“In training you can see that he has something special. If you can’t see that, you’re blind. His movement is correct, he plays in the right way and he can already do a lot at his age. He defends very cleverly too. That’s not easy to do at the age of 17, but he already does it well. He can score goals and play the final ball.”
Reyna’s four goals and seven assists in 11 outings in the U19 Bundesliga this season are testament to that, and he seamlessly made the transition to playing with the big boys on Saturday.
“For example, in the build-up to our fifth goal in Augsburg, he won the ball back following a cross,” Favre continued. “He accelerated, dribbled forward and then gave it to Marco Reus, who played in Haaland to score. He’s got it [a feel for the game].
“Our plan was that he would stay with us in the first team from January, and that’s what we’re going to do, he’ll be with us. He needs to continue playing the way he is and he’ll make great strides.”
There seems little doubt about that. After all, Dortmund have previous when it comes to giving fresh-faced teens a chance and turning them into world-class players. Nuri Sahin and Mario Götze have both gone on to enjoy successful careers, while more recently Ousmane Dembele, Christian Pulisic and Jadon Sancho all developed into fearsome attackers at the Signal Iduna Park.
Nevertheless, and despite his own enthusiasm for a player who only turned 17 in November, Favre insisted that Reyna would be given time to progress naturally.
“We need to be careful,” he said. “We need to take things step by step with the young players. They’re already with the first team and we’ve got a lot of youngsters in the squad. Sancho is still very young and he’s been with us for two years, but we still need to take care with the young guys.”