Erling Haaland, Gio Reyna, Marcus Thuram and their famous fathers discuss lineage, legacy and the weight of carrying a famous name on the back of your jersey
DORTMUND, Germany — Claudio Reyna cannot put a precise date on it, but it must have been in the last six months or so that his identity — without him really knowing it — began to change.
He is no longer Claudio Reyna, longstanding United States international, veteran of a 15-year career in some of Europe’s biggest leagues, sporting director of Major League Soccer’s Austin F.C. “Now, when I’m introduced to people, especially kids,” Reyna said, “it is just as Gio Reyna’s dad.”
Reyna is not alone in having to make that transformation. Soccer has always run in families to some extent — Paolo Maldini and Frank Lampard and Jordi Cruyff all came from stellar lineages — but now there is a new group of familiar names on the backs of jerseys across Europe.
Erling Haaland, son of Alfie, the Norwegian international, plays with Reyna at Borussia Dortmund. Marcus Thuram — whose father, Lilian, won the World Cup with France in 1998 — has become one of the Bundesliga’s brightest talents at Borussia Mönchengladbach.
There is a Chiesa at Fiorentina, a Hagi playing for Romania and a Weah and a Drogba coming through in France. There is even another Maldini — a third generation — now wearing the famous red and black stripes of A.C. Milan.
It is a moment that raises a familiar suite of questions. Does a famous name weigh heavy on young shoulders? Do whispered accusations of nepotism — that they are nothing more than “the son of,” as Lilian Thuram put it — provide inspiration to young men trying to prove themselves?
And when your son hits the big time, how does that transition feel, to see your renown eclipsed by that of your child? In interviews with both generations of the Reyna, Haaland and Thuram families, it is clear — in their own words, edited and condensed below for clarity — that becoming the father of a top player, rather than being the son of one, is considerably easier. As a kid, having a famous surname was a positive and a negative. There were probably some people who thought my name got me my chance. For me, that was just motivation.
There were a lot of times I proved I was good in my own right: at my hometown team, Bryne; at Molde, when I started doing well there; at Red Bull Salzburg; and now, at Dortmund. I have shown it a lot of times.
Maybe we are now past the point when people can say I am getting my chance because of who my dad is. He has been at almost every good moment for me: He is kind of a lucky charm. Continue reading
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