If the speed of Gio Reyna's emergence at Borussia Dortmund over the past couple of years has been somewhat surprising, the fact he has broken through at all has not - after all, both his father Claudio Reyna and mother Danielle Egan were professional footballers themselves.
"It was just in my blood," the BVB No.7 told soccer.com in 2020. "From a young kid, I was just always going to end up being a soccer player. Regardless of when or how, I was going to do it."
Not only is the game part of his DNA, it's also part of his identity: his parents gave him the name Giovanni as a nod towards his father's close friend and former teammate at Glasgow Rangers, Giovanni van Bronckhorst.
That is not all his dad gave him. Reyna senior blazed the trail for his son to follow 25 years later, leaving the USA to move to the Bundesliga as a youngster. "I think my dad's experience has helped a lot because he took a similar career path when he first went to Germany. Not only my dad - it started with my grandfather and my mother also played."
Claudio spent two seasons at both Bayer Leverkusen (1995-97) and Wolfsburg (1997-99) before spells with Rangers, Sunderland, Manchester City and the New York Red Bulls. A skillful central midfielder in his day, Reyna senior was renowned for his slick passing, astute decision-making and expert timing of his runs. Sound familiar?
Yet while Claudio is 5'9" and was not famed for his pace, Gio has an athletic 6'1" build and is very quick on his feet - traits inherited from his mum. A lightning-fast winger, Danielle made six appearances for the USA women's national team, scoring once, and played for the North Carolina Tar Heels from 1991-1994 before moving to Europe to be with Claudio.
"He's much more of an athlete than I was, much more of a goal scorer," Reyna senior said of his son in an interview with Sports Illustrated. "He's very technical and has a good feel for the game. He has a great free-kick and can strike a ball well. Danielle was a great runner – and he's a runner."
Gio himself agrees with that assessment. "I think my parents say I got the best of both of them, to be honest," he told bundesliga.com. "My dad was more of a technical, combining player, good on the ball, and with good technique, while my mum was more of a runner. I think I can run pretty well too, but I also have a good technique and a good combination. I think I got the best of both of them, but I can still always work and improve on both of them."
The prospect of the Dortmund attacker getting even better is a scary one - for defenders at least. Reyna has made 93 senior appearances for Dortmund so far, scoring 12 goals and laying on 14 more in all competitions.
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Not only that, in 2020/21 he became a regular starter, even keeping the likes of captain Marco Reus out of the side.
"I think I'm a pretty versatile player," Reyna said. "I think I can do a bit of everything. I like to get in the pockets and underneath the front line and try to create for them, and also score goals and assists. I've always been pretty fast from a young age. Speed is a very important part of my game. Some guys try to overthink things, but I think to be direct, especially in my position as a winger or as a No.10, is what's best. I do everything as quick as possible."
His parents continue to shape his career too, although again in different ways. "Football is such a big part of his life," Gio told ESPN of his father, who now works as sporting director at Austin FC.
"I don't think he really has ever left it. I love talking about it and he finds a way to tell me [feedback] in dad mode, but also in a football mode where he understands what it takes. It's all very relaxed, but putting no pressure on at the same time.
"[My mum] is more about effort," he continued. "If I had a bad training and she saw me slacking off, I definitely would get an earful in the car ride home. But she's very focused on my sleeping and eating habits and the way I take care of myself. I've certainly learned from her, and so I’m thankful to have her."
Gio also eagerly absorbed all the advice he got from the older players in the squad when he was breaking into the Dortmund team: "They tell me to just have fun when you play, not to let these mistakes get into your head. Be confident in your ability because you're there for a reason. Of course, the main thing is to have fun."
For someone who lists Kai Havertz, Kevin De Bruyne and Neymar as his favourite players, his sense of enjoyment at playing is tangible. Yet there is also a steely edge to Reyna's game - he has six yellow cards in senior football already and is one of the most fouled players in the league - while former Dortmund goalkeeper Roman Bürki once spoke of the teenager's ferocious finishing during training.
"I like to hit it hard," Reyna told BVB.TV. "I like to aim for the corners and give the goalkeeper zero chance. That's what I try to do."
And it is all with one objective in mind: "I want to be recognised as a world-class talent and world-class player in the future." Given his trajectory so far, and the fact both parents were also full internationals by the time they were 20, there seems little doubt about Reyna junior achieving his goal.
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