Great Britain

Dortmund’s new teenage sensation Gio Reyna is son of USA legend Claudio and his brother Jack died from cancer, aged 13

THIS week an American wonderkid announced himself to German football... and he was born in Sunderland!

Teenage sensation Gio Reyna scored an absolute worldie as a second half substitute for Bundesliga giants Borussia Dortmund, who crashed out of the DFB Cup 3-2 to Werder Bremen on Tuesday.

The fleet-footed 17-year-old, likened to Brazilian legend Kaka, skipped past two opponents before unleashing a curler into the top corner that drew applause from both sets of fans.

Since that magic moment, the German tabloids have raved about the attacking midfielder's prowess on the pitch.

Born into football, Reyna is the son of USA legend Claudio Reyna, who enjoyed spells in the Premier League with both The Black Cats and Manchester City.

However, when he was just nine his family's life was rocked by tragedy by the death of his eldest brother. It shaped the boy's life forever.

FROM MACKEM TO NEW YORK

From a young age Reyna appeared to be primed for a career in sport.

Gio was even named after Claudio's former Glasgow Rangers team-mate Giovanni van Bronckhorst.

While football was in his blood, he loved basketball and toyed between both sports.

He began life in the North-East, and then Manchester when his dad moved to City when he was just two.

By the time Gio was six Claudio had moved the family to New York for a final swansong with the Red Bulls before retirement, in a career that saw him play 112 times for his country.

Gio, who talked in a Manc accent which he soon lost, joined the NYCFC youth academy when his dad became sporting director there, working his way up the ranks - often playing in teams above his age group.

In 2017, at the Generation Adidas Cup, Gio came alive - helping his team win the U17 competition. He was just 14.

His performances earned him player of the tournament, and he followed that up with a star-turn at the Torneo delle Nazioni youth tournament with USA, scoring four times and providing four assists – including the winner in the final against England.

It left Reyna's former youth coach at NYCFC, Patrick Vieira purring about his protege's ability.

"For a kid, he has this physical presence and his game understanding is really good," the Arsenal legend said.

"He can score goals, he understands the demands of the game tactically. He's a really smart kid and he's shown some really good stuff."

FOLLOWING PULISIC'S LEAD

Like his father, Gio knew a move to Europe would elevate his football career to new heights.

He took Christian Pulisic's example by signing for Borussia Dortmund aged just 16 last year, after securing a Portuguese passport through grandmother Maria.

Reyna began this season in the club's under-19's, but his rapid progress saw him promoted to the first team squad during the winter break.

He made his Bundesliga debut coming on as a substitute in the 72nd minute for Thorgen Hazard, in a 5–3 win against FC Augsburg.

Two weeks later, he followed that appearance with his wonder goal against Bremen.

“In training you can see that he has something special," Dortmund coach Lucien Favre has said of the boy wonder.

He added: "If you can’t see that, you’re blind."

A TRAGEDY THAT SPURS HIM ON

In 2012, the Reyna family had their life turned upside down.

Jack, Gio's elder brother, passed away after a two-year battle with glioblastoma, an aggressive and incredibly rare brain cancer that usually affects men in their 60s and 70s.

Jack was just 13, while Gio was 9 and left devastated.

Not only had he lost his sibling, he felt he had lost his mentor too.

His mum Danielle Reyna, a former US women's footballer, recalled how difficult Gio found his brother's death in an interview with Sports Illustrated.

The evening after he died, Gio told her: "I’m never going to be a good soccer player now, because my big brother taught me everything.”

However, through that adversity, Gio persevered. Now, he is one of the most talked about young footballers in the world.

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