Over the last decade, America has embraced football as one of the most popular sports among the youth. It has created a foundation for new players to flourish, and a new pathway has developed for some of the most precocious American footballers to generate colossal transfer fees. Although footballers from the United States have managed to break into the top leagues in Europe, it’s only over the last five years that American footballers have commanded the same sort of transfer fees we have seen for other top players worldwide.
American players in the English Premier League
The 1990s saw a handful of American players move across the pond and test their skills against some of Europe’s best. Goalkeepers such as Kasey Keller and Brad Friedel were two big names who made a name for themselves in England, playing for Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool, respectively. The 1990s was an exciting time for English football; it signalled a time when the roles of different positions changed, with midfielders developing into all-round attacking and offensive players.
Midfielders like Roy Keane and Vinnie Jones championed the position of tough-tackling midfielders. Although this position has long existed in football, the characteristics of a footballing hardman in midfield took on new significance as hundreds more games were broadcast on television and the popularity of football soared. After his retirement, Vinnie Jones went on to star in movies, TV shows, and adverts. As a powerhouse for Leeds United and Wimbledon, he was technically proficient. His appeal as a tough-tackling midfielder led to him having a revered name in online games post-retirement, with branded Vinnie Jones games and a vast filmography, starring alongside the most prominent names in British cinema.
This signalled a shift in the rhetoric, and with hundreds of millions of people beginning to watch the English game, the popularity of the sport was driven to new heights in the United States. We’re now treated to performances from top talents like Brenden Aaronson, Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie and Giovanni Reyna, who is the youngest of this talented bunch, and according to many American fans and football analysts, is also the best of the current crop.
Why is Reyna so highly rated?
English Premier League fans might remember his father, Claudio Reyna, who played for Manchester City before their billion-pound takeover, and spent several seasons at Rangers and later at Sunderland, where his son Giovanni was born in 2002. Having reached the finals for the Golden Boy award in each of the last three years, he stood shoulder to shoulder with some of the finest footballing talents on the planet, losing out to Pedri, Gavi, and Erling Haaland in 2020.
Reyna currently plies his trade for Dortmund, which was, of course, where Haaland made a name for himself. Despite him still learning the ropes at age 20, many Dortmund fans believe they have a player who could fill the gap left by the immensely gifted Jude Bellingham, following his once-in-a-generation move to Real Madrid and incredible plaudits from ex-professionals.
The Sunderland-born man is of a similar ilk, tricky in the final third, with excellent technique and an eye for a pass that can open up defences. His attacking prowess is second only to his ability to carve open the opposition with his precision passing, and his overall game is reminiscent of a player with a lot more experience under his belt than the American has.
Players like Christian Pulisic have proved to be a bigger hit than Reyna, and as the most expensive American player of all time, the forward had a lot on his shoulders. While his big-money move to Chelsea might not have played out as he would have hoped, the moniker of the American Dream probably still applies more to Pulisic than Reyna, who is still struggling to hold down a consistent place in the Dortmund starting 11, despite his evident ability.
Until Giovanni can nail down a regular starting place in Germany and begin to turn some of his excellent play in the final third into goals and assists, he is still more of a prospect than a finished article. However, to finish positively, he is part of a raft of exciting talent that has emerged from the US over the last few years. With a conveyor belt of talent set to follow, we imagine it is only a matter of time before a genuinely elite-level talent emerges from across the pond; whether it will be Giovanni or another player, the jury is still out.