IN the summer of 2001, Claudio Reyna rejected a new £35,000-a-week contract offer from Rangers. It would have made the USA midfielder the highest-paid player in the club’s history. His mind was already made up, though; by that December, Reyna was heading for Sunderland.

Eleven months later his second son Giovanni was born. Seventeen years on and Reyna Jr is being hailed as one of the globe’s brightest young talents, talked about in the same conversation as his Borussia Dortmund team-mates Jadon Sancho and Erling Braut Haaland.

His international allegiance at one point this year was the subject of a tug-of-war between four countries – Argentina, the USA, Portugal and, yes, England.

It’s tempting to speculate over what might have happened had Reyna signed that lucrative deal at Ibrox but, in truth, the son of a US legend was only ever going to opt for the star-spangled banner. Indeed, he was included in Gregg Berhalter’s squad for the March friendlies against Wales and Netherlands before the lockdown claimed them.

Having got a flavour of his qualities prior to the coronavirus shutdown, the watching world will hope to get another glimpse of the youngster, signed from MLS side New York City in January, when Borussia Dortmund host Schalke in the Ruhr derby this afternoon.

There are no guarantees. Reyna, favourably compared to Zinedine Zidane by Patrick Vieira, his former manager in New York, may find himself having to make do with a role on the bench. But, with five changes permitted under new rules to help combat injuries following the long lay-off, there’s a chance we’ll get to see him at some point.

Terrence Boyd, a former US international striker and one-time Bundelisga prodigy, is one who is looking forward to watching his compatriot in action again.

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The pair have never met but their lives have been affected by life-changing events at a young age; even if they are not immediately obvious, there are ties that bind them.

It would be inaccurate to say they are cut from the same cloth, however. Reyna is an impish No.10 while Boyd, a 6ft2 battering ram, is what one might call an old-fashioned centre-forward.

But just like Reyna, Boyd (inset) has worn the black and yellow of Borussia Dortmund. He was a pretty big deal back then scoring prolifically for David Wagner’s second XI. Jurgen Klinsmann handed him his debut for the US men’s national team at the age of 21 and the world was seemingly at his feet. Unlike Reyna, he did not make an appearance in the first team. Stuck behind Robert Lewandowski and Lucas Barrios in the pecking order he moved to Rapid Vienna where he scored 28 goals in 48 games, attracting the interest of Red Bull Leipzig, then in 2.Bundesliga. A £1.8m transfer followed after a summer in which he ultimately missed out on a place in Klinsmann’s 2014 World Cup squad.

Boyd cannot disguise his excitement when he talks about the prospect of Reyna following his lead at international level.

“With regard to the national team and the future of US soccer – even though I am not in there anymore – I’m still a big US fan. He is very gifted with the ball, he has a good eye. The few matches I saw were just ridiculous, with him being that young; he scored a nice goal from outside of the box [against Werder Bremen in the German Cup] and got an assist in the Champions League [against Paris St-Germain]. It’s just great when you see another American player coming through and making an impact.”

The two have had to overcome adversity early on in life. Boyd, born in Bremen to a US serviceman and a German mother, moved to New York as a baby but grew up without his father around after the marriage fell apart and his mum took the two of them back to Germany.

“He didn’t care for me, so I don’t care for him,” Boyd would say of his father many years later. Nevertheless, his desire to play for the US was so strong that he had to seek him out for his signature when it came to applying for his passport.

Now 29, he says he has put it behind him.

“Yeah, you don’t feel it [all the time] but it forms you more and more; every setback shapes the person you become but it’s not like one incident.”

Reyna has endured a different kind of tragedy. If Boyd’s family was broken, Reyna’s was torn apart when he was nine. His elder brother Jack died at the age of 13 from a brain tumour.

Claudio has said previously that Gio used the trauma as motivation and alloyed it to his sublime natural gifts. Named after Reyna Sr’s former Rangers team-mate Giovanni van Bronckhorst, he was the kind of child who could pick up a sport just by watching it for a few minutes on television.

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Boyd would laugh off parallels between the pair but there was a time when he was in demand. When he tore his anterior cruciate ligament at Leipzig in 2014 the chance evaporated, however. A move to the Premier League collapsed after a club doctor was unhappy with his MRI scan. But he has never had problems with it since.

So what would his advice be to his young compatriot if he is to succeed where Boyd didn’t at Dortmund?

“For me it’s just work ethic, it’s easy. If you keep working on the pitch, off the pitch, do everything that you can, don’t get distracted – I don’t think Gio Reyna would be one of those wild guys who go and party every day. Luck, of course, you can’t control luck. You can believe in karma, if you work your a** off then sometimes, maybe as a striker, the shots that aren’t so good go in, but luck is also staying healthy.”

While Reyna’s strike against Bremen was a thing of geometric beauty, he is not the only American to score a goal-of-the-season contender in German football this season. Boyd, now at Hallescher in the third tier, was on social media loop for a few days in November when his 40-yard matchwinning volley against Duisburg had the east Germans knocking briefly on the door at the top of the table.

He laughs as he recalls the moment. “I just thought ‘f*** it, why not?’ You know when you play soccer and you have those moments where you do the first thing that comes to your mind? Even if it is stupid, it’s intuition.

“We eyed promotion,” he laughs again in recognition at his side’s position just above the relegation zone. “But since the winter break we couldn’t win any more.”

Yet, while Reyna returns to full action this weekend, Boyd only started training again on Monday. Chancellor Angela Merkel left the decision on returning to each individual state in Germany; Saxony was one that said no and so 3.Liga will not return until May 25. The restart is not something Boyd agrees with, albeit he understands that clubs are struggling financially. He is particularly skeptical of the DFL’s 11-point health and safety plan.

“They proposed some guidelines . . . I cried tears of laughter,” says Boyd who lives in Leipzig with his wife and two young children. “If you have to go to an away game it has to be on three team buses. You’ve got to be a clear distance of 1.5m from everyone – which is impossible for people! Please! You are only allowed to drive to the stadium and back, I am not allowed to go the supermarket anymore. If you are living by yourself, the club has to provide someone who brings your groceries. We’re talking about the third league, they don’t have the money for the extra stuff. It’s just ridiculous.

“There is a great debate going on right now in Germany which says, ‘Okay, how the f*** is the Bundesliga starting and the kindergartens are still closed?’

“Soccer is a money thing, if it was up to me I would say, ‘Just cancel it’ like in France and Bayern will be champion.”

It’s a good point, just not one Gio Reyna might agree with . . .