Long Reads

Reinier Jesus: Real Madrid’s Latest Brazilian Jewel

“Dear Reinier, you are now a Real Madrid player, the team you always chose to play in the video games, the one that brought you the biggest illusions and the one that was part of your dreams.”

The aforementioned quote isn’t part of a letter written by a fan. Those words came from one of the most powerful club presidents in European football.

Florentino Pérez labelled Real Madrid’s recent transfer policy of spotting and acquiring the most talented players in the world as an “obsession”.

The last chapter of that obsession answers to the name of Reinier Jesus Carvalho. The 18-year-old midfielder was officially presented as a new Real Madrid player on February 18.

During his presentation, he didn’t manage to hold his tears, recalling the sacrifices he had to make to accomplish his dreams.

“I feel as if this is a dream come true for me,” he noted. “Playing for Real Madrid was the dream that my dad, my mother and all of the family had. I’m really happy and all of the players are my heroes.”

Among those who attended the press conference was his father Mauro Lucius Graça Parente Carvalho, known as Mauro Brasilia.

A Futsal World Cup winner back in 1985 with Brazil, Mauro is one of the most important figures in Renier’s life.

It was him who injected the passion for football into his son’s veins and stood by his side when this passion turned into a dream, one which he tried to follow at a young age.

“My dad is my biggest hero.,” said Reinier. “He deserves to be here, experiencing this with me. It was our dream, above all, mine.”

About four decades ago, Mauro joined Flamengo but the club decided that he doesn’t have what it takes to become a professional football player.

He didn’t give up and shifted to futsal. In 1985, he travelled to Madrid to feature in the Futsal World Cup with Brazil.

The Seleção won the trophy after beating Spain 3-1 in the final, with Mauro netting the third goal to seal the victory.

His recollections of this success on Spanish soil was one of the reasons he decided to return to Europe and play futsal in Ceuta, Zaragoza and Salamanca.

Before going back to Brazil, he was aware that this chapter was far from closed. Sometime, somehow he’d be back to Spain.

Whether he did it consciously or not, it worked. All those captivating videos he used to show Reinier of Zinedine Zidane dancing with the ball would subconsciously push his son to success.

However, in order to reach the point where he would embark a plane and travel to Madrid to meet Florentino, he had to help Reinier exploit his talent.

At the age of 11, Reinier moved from his native Brasilia to Rio de Janeiro to try his luck as a football player. Mauro enrolled him for try-outs, first with Vasco da Gama and later with Fluminense, but none of the two teams had a place in the kid’s heart.

Three years after moving to Rio, Reinier secured a try-out with his beloved Flamengo. History had repeated itself but this time it wouldn’t result in rejection.

“I went to live in Flamengo’s training centre,” he recalled years later. “I was too young. I spent six months dedicating myself, and in the middle of the year, the coach thought it would be better for me to go on loan to Araraquara.

“My father didn’t accept that and I left. He told this story to a Flamengo director, and he said: ‘Your son will now complete your history with Flamengo’.”

Mauro was Reinier’s only family member to move with him to Rio. The youngster missed his mother, sister and grandmother but he was aware that they are happy for him as soon as he was following his dream.

“He was always a very smart player for his age,” Mauro told AS.

“When all the children ran behind the ball, he positioned himself in such a way that it reached him and he was ready. I observed that very early. It is one of his best qualities: intelligence, positioning on the field, reading the game.

“As a child I taught him to improve the technique, sometimes he even cried saying he did not want more workouts, but he has been very good.”

Reinier climbed the youth ranks at Flamengo and started dreaming of his debut with the first team.

“I’ve already imagined my debut,” he said in an interview for Globo Esporte. “Flamengo against Vasco at the Maracanã. The stadium packed.

“I’ll come on with ten minutes to go, score a goal, give an assist. Always help the team (laughs).”

However, dreams don’t always come true as he neither scored nor contributed an assist in his first official game against Emelec in the Copa Libertadores on August 1, 2019.

One month later, he made the trip back to Brasilia, although this time he’d be accompanied by his teammates.

Flamengo were facing Avaí and his whole family was invited to attend the game at the Estádio Nacional de Brasília.

Jorge Jesus announced the first eleven before the game and Reinier’s name was among the starters. The experienced tactician had informed him a few days earlier and helped him prepare for the game. Reinier had gained his coach’s confidence and all he had to do was pay it back.

He teed up Gabigoal for Flamengo’s opener and netted his team’s third to clinch a 3-0 victory.

“[Reinier] was injured in my first weeks, I didn’t know him well, and I got to know him little by little,” Jesus said after the game.

“We can’t ask him to do everything well. For his age, he is a top player. He’s a smart, intelligent boy, we pass the message and he gets it. He scored a goal, which is important for an attacking player.

“He is a boy, but in relation to the maturity of his game is, he is five years ahead. He will have a brilliant career and be another great young man who is taking his first steps in Brazil.”

Standing at 1.85m tall, Reinier can play as either as No. 10 or as a second striker. He stands out for his speed and powerful strike from distance, resembling one of the most extraordinary playmakers of recent years.

“Kaká is my idol, I always followed him, more through videos that my father showed me,” he stressed. “I see some similarities; I am inspired by him. His height, his sprints… I am very happy with these comparisons.

“I don’t really like scoring goals, I always try to give passes, make beautiful plays. It’s not that I don’t like scoring goals, but I didn’t have the habit of stepping on the [opposition] area, but with Flamengo’s work I learned to get it more, always doing everything.”

Jesus’ attacking style benefited Reinier who featured in 14 games in 2019, scoring six goals and assisting another two.

European football powerhouses started taking notice, as Atletico Madrid, Real Madrid, Liverpool, Manchester City and Juventus expressed their interest in the 17-year-old playmaker.

Flamengo renewed his contract and set a 30 million euro buyout clause which would raise to 35m euros in summer 2020 and double that figure a year later.

It didn’t take long for Los Blancos to make their move. They informed Flamengo of their decision to trigger the player’s release clause and as had happened before with Vinícius Júnior and Rodrygo Goes, they agreed to sign the player when he’d come of age.

Reinier had already won the Campeonato Brasileiro Série A and with Flamengo, whose coach argued that the 30m euro fee was too low for his talent.

After helping his country achieve qualification to the 2020 Summer Olympics through the 2020 CONMEBOL Pre-Olympic Tournament where they finished second, Reinier travelled to Madrid to join his new club.

Los Blancos’ plan is to give him playing time with Real Madrid Castilla in the Spanish football third tier. Meanwhile, he will be able to participate in the first team’s training sessions under Zidane; one of the players who defined the playmaker’s position and the guy whose videos Mauro regularly showed his son on YouTube.

In Madrid he’s found another two Brazilian wonderkids, Vinícius and Rodrygo, whose fathers had also struggled to succeed in professional football, but did everything to help their sons fulfil their ambitions.

“One of our main strategies is an obsession with finding talent wherever it is,” noted Florentino Perez. “That’s why we’re incorporating young players, but with quality and with an unquestionable future projection. In short, footballers who can be the big stars of tomorrow.”

Over to you, Reinier Jesus Carvalho.

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