The Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) has announced it will award the gold and diamond medal — its highest distinction — to Jose Antonio Reyes, who was killed in a car accident at the weekend.
Thousands of people attended the wake that was held on Sunday evening at the Sanchez Pizjuan stadium for the former Sevilla, Arsenal and Real Madrid forward.
Reyes, 35, was on the books of Spanish second division side UD Extremadura and was heading home to Utrera on Saturday morning when he crashed.
“RFEF president Luis Rubiales has announced that during the general assembly that will take place on June 10, the RFEF’s gold and diamond medal will be posthumously awarded to the footballer,” a statement from the Spanish FA said.
Rubiales travelled to Seville to pay his respects to Reyes and said: “We are very affected, it’s very sad. He was an incredible player, a marvellous person. Spanish football will never forget him.”
Reyes earned 21 caps for Spain and was part of the 2006 World Cup squad. He won the Premier League title and FA Cup with Arsenal and was a member of the team which reached the 2006 Champions League final. However, it was at boyhood club Sevilla where he achieved the most success.
Reyes, who made his debut as a 16-year-old with Sevilla, won three consecutive Europa League titles during his second spell with the club to become the tournament’s record winner with five overall, having previously won it twice with Atletico Madrid.
Arsenal manager Unai Emery, who managed Reyes for three seasons during the player’s second stint at Sevilla, also attended the wake
“I have fond memories that I will carry with me, we had a father and son relationship,” Emery said. “That something special that he had was a connection of talent. As a coach I had a huge responsibility to coexist with that talent.”
The King of Spain sent his condolences to UD Extremadura, and wrote that he and his family are “very saddened” by his death.
Meanwhile, former Real Madrid and Valencia goalkeeper Santiago Canizares, a teammate of Reyes with Spain, has been criticised after a comment regarding Reyes’ death.
“Driving over the speed limit is a reproachable attitude,” Canizares said on Twitter, reacting to reports that Reyes had been driving over the speed limit. “In the accident there were victims besides the driver Reyes. [He] doesn’t deserve a tribute as though he was a hero.
“But that doesn’t take away the fact that I lament what has happened and that I pray for their souls.”
Canizares added later on Twitter: “Perhaps I didn’t explain myself well. Of course he deserves a tribute and be greatly remembered for his career and what he has given to football. I read and respect everyone’s opinion, even those that are accompanied by insults and disparaging remarks.
“The only thing I wanted is to invite to reflect on how many mistakes we make, and I think it’s perfectly compatible with pain.”
Reyes’ funeral will be held on Monday morning in his birth town of Utrera.