Reis signing aids Melbourne City in ‘key position’ depth

Melbourne City has bolstered its defensive stocks with the signing of former Portuguese youth international captain Nuno Reis, the A-League club announced last week.

Reis, who will be making Australia the sixth country he will have played top-flight league matches in, was scheduled to clear his mandatory international quarantine stay as of today, and would be due to feature for coach Patrick Kisnorbo’s side as either a central defender or as a defensive midfielder sooner rather than later as Melbourne City otherwise prepares for its next match against Perth Glory on Sunday at AAMI Park.

And with a catalogue of changes that have occurred alone City’s back line since the end of last season, the mere presence of Reis into the club’s set-up exists as a welcome sight.

“We think he’s a player who really suits the way we want to play,” Kisnorbo said upon City’s signing of Reis.

“He’s had a great career in Europe with some really good clubs, represented his country at all underage levels,” Kisnorbo added.

The footballing odyssey of Reis, aged 29, has taken him from Portuguese giants Sporting Lisbon to a pair of loan spells with Cercle Brugge of Belgium, to brief stops at Metz in France, back home in Portugal with Vitoria Setubal, and off to Bulgaria with Levski Sofia before coming to Melbourne City on a three-year contract.

Reis has also represented Portugal at every conceivable youth level, from the under-16’s to under-21’s, with the crescendo of his international career at youth level coming with captaining Portugal to a second-place finish at the 2011 Under-20 World Cup, only falling short to the ultimate glory via a 3-2 loss to Brazil after extra time.

“I’m excited to be joining Melbourne City and being a part of something special here in Australia,” Reis said upon his signing.

“I have spent my career in Europe and for me, the time was right to accept a new challenge in the A-League. As a professional footballer, the project at Melbourne City is very exciting,” Reis added.

Melbourne City’s club management brought in plenty of reinforcements to aid in avenging the Grand Final loss to Sydney FC last August, with Reis being one of eight additions.

Reis joins Japanese attacker Naoki Tsubaki – on a one-year loan from J-League outfit Yokohama F. Marinos – as well as one-time Melbourne Heart defender Ben Garuccio, Socceroo forward Andrew Nabbout who moves across town from Melbourne Victory, and young domestic players Marco Tilio, Matt Sutton, Taras Gomulka and Aiden O’Neil as Melbourne City’s offseason additions.

As Reis adds depth and competes for a spot in Kisnorbo’s defensive schemes which includes the likes of Garuccio and Rostyn Griffiths as a combination that started in the middle in City’s last match, a 2-1 win over Western United on January 16.

As Griffiths left the match in the 38th minute due to injury and Kisnorbo granting wing-back Curtis Good greater defensive responsibilities to compensate tactically, a player of Reis’ skill set and experience will come in handy for the rest of the season.

“He’s going to be hugely helpful,” Garuccio said on Friday.

“Right now, at centre back at the moment, we have ‘Goody’ and ‘Stokesey’ [Kerrin Stokes]… adding another centre back to that is only going to be healthy for our team.

“It is a key position on the pitch that you want to have a lot of depth for,” added Garuccio, himself in his second tour of duty with the club after a couple of stops at Adelaide United and Scottish Premier League side Hearts.

Garuccio, based on his experience around the traps at that variety of different clubs, believes that a player of Reis’ vast experience in a lot of different set-ups and clubs on his own travels can only help Melbourne City’s defensive depth.

“We do have a great competition for places not just in our defence, but all over the team. But defensively, it does keep us going, in pushing each other to be their best,” he said.

Reis’ addition bolsters a back-line set-up that let in 37 goals in the pandemic-interrupted 2019-20 season – the A-League’s fifth-best mark, tied with Western United for that distinction – with then-coach Erick Mombaerts’ back four in a 1-4-1-4 formation most frequently consisting of (based on post-pandemic games going back to August) Harrison Delbridge and Nathaniel Atkinson on the flanks and Richard Windbichler joining Good in the middle with Josh Brillante in front of them as a defensive midfielder.

However, the signings of Reis and Garuccio in particular have been mandated by Brillante’s move to Greek club Xanthi, Atkinson moving to Perth Glory and Windbichler and Delbridge being released outright.

The quality of competition for places in City’s regular training regimens has not gone by unnoticed, either by Kisnorbo, nor by his players, with the revolving-door aspect during the short timespan between the two seasons occurring, with Reis’ addition only adding to that quality within the defensive platoons.

“Every time they train, every player knows they have something to train for,” Kisnorbo added on Saturday.

“Competition is a healthy thing, and the players know it,” he added.

“In our whole squad, we have competition for places, among our senior players but also with the younger players we have coming through as well. No one is here just to make up the numbers – everybody wants to play and have something to contribute,” said Garuccio.

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