There's never a dull moment with Jonathan Reis, a talented but troubled Brazilian. Tom Archer reports on how PSV Eindhoven have rallied around to support their player, with spectacular results.
Jonathan Reis has experienced a plethora of different emotions over the past year. He might be the current darling of the PSV faithful, but it was a very different story nine months ago. Having originally signed for the Brabant giants in 2007, the 21 year-old from the city of Contagem in the coffee-producing state of Minas Gerais in Brazil failed an in-house drug test in Eindhoven, testing positive for cocaine; and when asked to attend a rehabilitation course, subsequently refused. It took Reis a while to settle into his new surroundings, and he gained the reputation of being a bit of a party animal who didn’t particularly impress with his work-ethic. A number of excuses have been given for Reis’ behaviour- homesickness, an influential agent and his troubled background being just a few. Reis has refused to play for the reserve team in friendlies, and not long ago, PSV were ready to sell the obviously talented but wayward Brazilian.
Towards the end of his first season, he broke his foot and chose (against club advice) to go home for his rehabilitation. The commonly told story of a Brazilian footballer going AWOL then followed. Reis eventually returned with his foot in a worse condition than when he left Eindhoven, infuriating the PSV coaching team. Six months later Reis, after having his foot reset in plaster, was sent on loan to the small Brazilian club of Tupi in his home state of Minas Gerais. Stories of his partying began filtering back to PSV and on his return home he met up with the team 5 days late. It soon became public that Reis had tested positive for Cocaine and was sent back to the Netherlands. PSV offered Reis the chance to attend a clinic. Reis decided he did not want to, and stated his desire to go back to Brazil. At this point, PSV finally laid down the law to Reis and although his contract was cancelled he was told that he would have to pay the transfer fee if he were to begin playing for another club. Reis eventually relented and entered the clinic, staying for over two months, a sure sign that he was not just ‘socially’ taking the drug but had become an addict. A promising career had reached a crossroads.
Luckily for Reis, new PSV coach Fred Rutten decided that the player deserved another chance and he was offered a fresh start in Eindhoven- as long as he agreed to be watched over by a number of professionals at the club, who were to monitor him and his eccentric behaviour. In a story reminiscent of Kevin Nolan and Andy Carroll, Reis was sent to live with Brazilian goalkeeper Cassio Ramos. All looked to be fine throughout the summer although the PSV coaching staff were all too aware of how easy it would be for Reis to fall back into bad habits. Credit must go to Rutten and his team for understanding a problem that may otherwise have been ignored (or passed on to someone else) by less accommodating coaches. However, in September, twelve hours before Reis was due to play a game against Roda JC in the Eredivisie he was caught drunk-driving at 4.30 in the morning. He was as much as seven times over the limit for a young driver in The Netherlands and had his licence confiscated.
This was a big setback for both player and club. Reis had begun the season in good form and it was as if PSV had signed a new player. The fans were beginning to warm to him and he was looking increasingly likely to push Liverpool target Ola Toivonen out of the starting team; having made his re-entry into the squad at Sampdoria. After a good start in the Eredivisie, Reis was kept out of the limelight and much was made of PSV protecting their ‘troublesome’ striker. Most observers have concluded that given Reis’ age, he needs to be given as much space and time to recover from his mishaps as possible. The media have been surprisingly understanding. Reis has since gone on to score seven goals in four games for PSV- including a hat-trick in the 10-0 demolition of Feyenoord last weekend (where he was given a standing ovation when substituted for Danny Koevermans). Koevermans himself has publicly praised Reis, saying that he deservedly stands ahead of him in the PSV pecking order. So much so that Koevermans has resigned himself to leaving Brabant at the end of the season, probably to Feyenoord.
The story goes to show that given the right help and support, a player can turn his life around. If Chelsea had done the same with Adrian Mutu they may well have ended up with a player worth far more than the €17,000,000 that he supposedly owes the London club. Reis will always have the possibility of falling off the wagon,but PSV have decided that he is worth the trouble; and thus far, the signs have been promising. The Brazilian seems to have found a new lease of life, and an obviously close bond with Rutten will go a long way to improving his confidence and self-belief. As long as Rutten, his staff, the players and supporters continue to get behind Reis, then there is no reason why he cannot go on to be one of the finest strikers in the European game. There is already talk of a starring role at the 2014 World Cup, and what a homecoming that would be.
As well as writing for In Bed with Maradona, Tom blogs on German and Dutch football. You can follow him on Twitter @eredivisielife