(BBC) Former Arsenal winger Jose Antonio Reyes has died in a car accident aged 35, Spanish club Sevilla have announced.
“We couldn’t be confirming worse news,” the La Liga club said on Twitter.
The Spaniard joined the Gunners from the La Liga side in January 2004 and was part of the ‘Invincibles’ side that went through the 2003-04 season unbeaten, winning the Premier League.
He later spent a season on loan at Real Madrid in 2006-07, winning La Liga.
The La Liga club paid tribute to the “eternal legend”, adding he was “one of the most valuable home grown players in the history of the club”.
Reyes leaves behind his wife Noelia Lopez, who he married in June 2017, and three children, daughters Noelia and Triana and son Jose Antonio Jr from a previous relationship.
Henry leads tributes to ‘exceptional human’ Reyes
Arsenal paid tribute to their former player, saying they are “devastated by the shocking news”.
Gunners legend Thierry Henry, who played alongside Reyes between 2004-2007, called him a “wonderful player, superb team-mate and exceptional human being”.
“I wish his family and friends continued strength and courage to get through this difficult time. #takenfartoosoon”, he added on Twitter.
Former Arsenal midfielder Cesc Fabregas called Reyes his “first great friend in the world of professional football”, and added: “My room-mate, who always wanted to sleep with the air conditioning even at -10 degrees.
“A humble guy who always had a smile on his face, great footballer and great person. I could not wake up today in a worse way.
“I will never forget when you and your family welcomed me at your home in my first Christmas in England when I was alone and was 16 years old. I will never forget our tennis football matches in the gym before and after workouts.
“Our connection in the field was also special.
“I always say that you have been one of the greatest talents in our football and I know that I am not wrong.
“Two days ago I was talking about you in an interview, it might be a sign, who knows, to remember you, my great friend.
“I will never forget you, we will never forget you. Always in our hearts. Rest in peace Jose Antonio Reyes. Love you very much. Cesc.”
Former team-mate Freddie Ljungberg said: “Numbed by the news about my former team-mate, Jose Antonio Reyes. Gone far too soon, my thoughts are with his family and friends.”
Current Arsenal manager Unai Emery, who Reyes played under at Sevilla, shared a poignant tribute: “Deeply sad and speechless after knowing this tragic news. I’ll never forget your magic and your smile, Jose, never. It was an honour to be by your side… A strong hug and all the spirit of the world to family, friends and clubs to which he represented. RIP Friend.”
Former Atletico Madrid team-mate Sergio Aguero said: “Moved by the death of José Antonio Reyes, a very good friend and partner with whom I shared great moments. A lot of pain. My condolences and all my support to your relatives”.
His current club Extremadura said in a statement on Twitter: “With a broken heart Extremadura UD announce the death of their player Jose Antonio Reyes in a traffic accident.”
Reyes’ final match was a 1-0 win at Alcorcon on 18 May. The Spanish second division side’s away game to Cadiz, which was due to take place on Sunday, has been postponed until Tuesday, along with the league’s other fixtures that were due to take place that day.
A career full of trophies
In the 1999-2000 season, Reyes made his debut aged just 16 years old – the youngest in Sevilla’s history.
After leaving the Gunners in 2007 he won the Europa League twice at Atletico Madrid and three times at Sevilla.
In January 2019, Reyes joined Spanish second division strugglers Extremadura.
Last year, it was reported that Reyes was set to return to Arsenal as a coach under Unai Emery, who he played for at Sevilla.
Reyes joined Arsenal in a deal worth about £17m in 2004 and in May 2005, he became the second player to be sent off in an FA Cup final, as Arsenal beat Manchester United in a penalty shoot-out.
He also played in the 2006 Champions League final as the Gunners lost 2-1 to Barcelona.