A win was all that was needed to lift the league title. A few months earlier, nobody thought that they would be on the verge of winning the league. Even a finish out of the top four seemed more likely.
But against all odds, Real Madrid somehow pulled through and just needed a win to ensure the league title for the 2006-07 season.
It was 2007. I was merely 13 years of age at the time. To me, it was all a fairytale because I had given up on the league in December 2006. I don’t remember much, but one thing that still flashes in my vividly is the montage of Real Madrid’s comeback that they used to air on Real Madrid TV.
I didn’t have internet at the time and didn’t know at what time Real Madrid were supposed to play their decisive match against Mallorca. Looking back, the match took place at around 11 pm UAE time, and my parents would have never allowed a 13-year-old kid to stay up that late.
However, I did know for a fact that the next day when I switch on the TV and watch Real Madrid TV, I will know how things turned out. I was a bit nervous but was also confident because Real Madrid are strong enough to beat Mallorca.
So, the next day when I checked out Real Madrid TV, they were showing the repeat of the match and the score-line read 1-0 in favour of Mallorca and 55 minutes of the match had already past.
Remember, there was no internet for me to check out the final scores, so I wasn’t aware of the final result of the match.
My heart sank. How could a team with so many star players not be able to defeat Mallorca in the most important game of the season? I was fuming. I was dejected.
And then you were subbed in, Jose Antonio Reyes.
I always liked Reyes. He scored some very vital goals during Real Madrid’s comeback and was always a slick player. He was not outstanding per se, but something about him stood out.
And so when he was brought on the pitch, I was hoping that he would do something – and he did just that instantly.
He came on and a minute later, he scored. I was jubilant, but Real still needed a win. Diarra scored next, and I was jumping around with joy before Reyes finished the game off with a superb long-range effort.
I remember Iker Casillas running all the way down to celebrate the goal. It was the goal that eased the pressure as everyone knew that the league was now won. While I became a fan of Real Madrid due to Raul in 2002, 2006-07 season was the first time I started following the club on a regular basis.
For me, it was like a gift from Reyes.
After the season ended, Reyes left, and I never understood why Madrid allowed him to go. In my eyes, he was a hero – a true Madrid icon that gifted us a league title in his last appearance for the club.
Following his departure, I never really followed his career with attention but always smiled whenever I saw him on the TV. It always brings back memories. Always. There have been so many great moments for the club in its modern history and Reyes is the architect of one of them.
Keen observers will tell you how Reyes never really fulfilled the potential that he had. And they might be right – he perhaps should have won a lot more than he did.
But for me – and everyone else who saw him in a Madrid shirt – he gave it his best shot in the one, and the only season he was at the Santiago Bernabeu. Those last few months showed what Reyes at his peak could do.
For Real Madrid, Reyes was his best version.
And that’s the best part – we remember him being at his peak as our saviour.
So today, when I read the news of his passing, I felt… I felt like a void getting bigger in my gut and sucking every organ inside of it. I stared at the screen, hoping that it might be a prank or a fools’ day in Spain.
I was hoping that I was in a dream, and I would snap out of it at any moment. But nothing happened. After a while, I logged on to Twitter, and almost everyone on my TL were pouring out their eulogies for Reyes.
That’s when it started to sink in.
I don’t know what happens after death to the person who dies, but I do know that the memories of that person live on forever – especially in the case of Reyes.
You shall forever be engrained in the hearts of us - you might have left the physical plane, but you live with us in spirit, Jose. And I hope that that spirit will give your family the strength to live on while remembering you.
Rest in peace, Jose Antonio Reyes – you are gone, but you will never be forgotten.