“Where In The World Is Gio Reyna?” appears to have an answer, as reports this morning say that he is in England to wrap up a loan deal with Nottingham Forest. You know when you get the “Here We Go!” from Fab that it’s official.
The only thing that USMNT fans will care about is that Reyna finally gets on the field regularly and that he do so without some body part falling off of him again after 10 minutes. The second part we can’t know until he gets out there. The first part? Hardly a guarantee, but it looks good.
Manager Nuno Espirito Santo has generally deployed Forest in a 4-2-3-1, and while Morgan Gibbs-White has pretty much made the No. 10 spot in that set-up his own, the two wide attacking spots have been in flux. Tuesday against Arsenal, Neco Williams, who is a fullback really, played on the right and Nicolás Dominguez, who probably is a defensive midfielder, was playing on the left. Anthony Elanga and Callum Hudson-Odoi have also rotated into those spots, with none of the four really grabbing a starting spot with both hands. There’s opportunity there if Reyna can prove worthy of it.
But that doesn’t mean there aren’t concerns. One, there are always concerns when it comes to Santo and Reyna’s agent Jorge Mendes, as the former is seen as something of a safehouse for the latter’s clients. When Espirito Santo was the manager of Wolves, Mendes was basically seen as the team’s technical director, given the number of clients at Molineux at the time. But Reyna can easily outplay that, even if Santo is just doing his agent a solid.
The bigger concern is that Reyna is joining a team that’s already in a relegation fight, as Forest are only two points ahead of Everton in 18th (I take no extra pleasure in writing that, I assure you). They also have an FFP charge hanging over their heads from the Premier League which could see a points-deduction penalty sometime in the next couple months that will certainly sentence them to a return to the Championship.
Which means, first off, that the team and manager don’t really have time to wait around for Reyna to get up to speed with his teammates and the Premier League. While the Bundesliga features pretty open play as well, it is not at the pace or the physicality of the Premier League. Reyna has already seen former Dortmund teammates Christian Pulisic and Jadon Sancho spend a lot of time struggling with either or both. Forest need points now, and if Reyna doesn’t look like he’ll help provide them quite sharpish, he’ll be out of the lineup. And he’ll be trying to do that off the back of barely playing for Dortmund this season. He’ll need time he just might not have to settle.
Second, Reyna will be joining a style of team he doesn’t have much familiarity with. Because Forest aren’t going to have the ball much. They currently rank 17th in possession, and that’s not going to change. Reyna could flourish in the open spaces of the counterattacks that Forest have used successfully at times this season, but there aren’t that many of them. No Dortmund side he’s ever played for has averaged less than half of the possession in a season, and Forest are currently at 39.4 percent.
Which means Reyna will be doing a fair amount of running without the ball, not considered his strength. And the list of upcoming opponents for Forest won’t make for appetizing reading: Bournemouth, Newcastle, West Ham, Aston Villa and Liverpool. Four of those teams are probably going to dominate the ball. Can Reyna be merely a counter-attacking player?
Health is also always a concern. Reyna hasn’t been anything more than an impact sub the past three seasons, and Forest might not view him as much more than that, at least to start. He couldn’t stay upright in Germany, but he’s going to do so in the Premier League where you can be sure someone is going to kick him into the fifth row in one of his first games?
Reyna’s deal is interesting in that there is no option to buy with this loan, and his contract with Dortmund has been extended another year to 2026. That’s probably just to make his sale price higher should he succeed with Forest.
There is certainly risk here, but Reyna needs to get on the field to start justifying the noise around him. There is opportunity at Forest for him, but it comes in the form and task that he’s never deal with before. He can ask his American teammates Tyler Adams and Brenden Aaronson what being in a relegation battle in the Premier League is like. Probably won’t get pleasant answers.