Controversial Chilean Gonzalo Jara Reyes won’t forget Brighton in a hurry

Jara BHA blue and white

Gonzalo Jara Reyes has never been far from the headlines for all the wrong reasons and his spell on loan to Brighton from West Bromwich Albion was no different.

The defender had two separate spells on loan with the Seagulls during the 2011-12 season but he hit the headlines for off-field matters.

He appeared before Brighton magistrates in January 2012 for driving his car in the city while already banned for drink driving.

He admitted driving an Audi Q7 sports car in Richmond Terrace, Brighton, while disqualified and driving without insurance and collected a £3,500 fine, having been banned for 17 months the previous July.

The Brighton bench handed him a further 12 month ban and ordered him to pay £100 costs.

Having joined Gus Poyet’s Brighton on loan in October 2011, he had only played four matches before missing that memorable December 2011 1-0 defeat against Burnley – when Ashley Barnes and Romain Vincelot were sent off in the first 12 minutes of the game.

It transpired he had been arrested by Sussex Police on the morning of the match, and was still in custody when the game kicked off.

It was an eventful few days for the Chile international because, two days after his arrest, West Brom recalled him early from the planned 13-game loan to the Seagulls as cover for the Baggies’ Christmas programme.

West Brom manager at the time, Roy Hodgson, was confident it wouldn’t affect his game, telling the Express & Star: “Most footballers have got something else going on in their lives that they have to deal with when they go onto the football field and they put it into another compartment.

“His is perhaps a bit more serious than others but he’ll have to learn to deal with it.”

On the final day of the transfer window in January 2012, Jara eventually returned to Brighton for the remainder of the season. But it wasn’t long before he was in trouble again.

On 17 March 2012, in a 3-1 defeat away to Blackpool, referee Simon Hooper showed Jara a red card in the 57th minute when he lunged in with a late challenge to take down Keith Southern. It wasn’t the first time he’d seen red at Bloomfield Road and it earned him a three-match ban. By the season’s end he’d played a total of just 14 games for Brighton.

Born in Hualpén on 29 August 1985, Jara grew up there, playing for Huachipato before winning three league titles in Chile with Colo-Colo.

He represented Chile in the 2005 World Youth Championship in the Netherlands and he came to the attention of West Brom’s head of EU recruitment Tony Spearing while captaining the Chile Under-23 team in Toulon in 2008.

He had actually already played for the full international side, on a 2006 European tour, and has since played more than a hundred games for his country.

Known for his versatility, he can play in either full back positions, central defence or as a holding midfielder.

He was 24 when West Brom head coach Roberto Di Matteo signed him in August 2009 for £1.4m. Di Matteo told the club’s website: “Gonzalo is an exciting, quick, technical and aggressive player.

“He’s still young and has a strong desire to achieve. Gonzalo wants to go to that next level and prove himself in Europe.”

He was a regular in his first season at The Hawthorns before breaking a metatarsal. He played right back in the Baggies’ Premier League side but got himself sent off in a game away to Blackpool when the side were already down to 10 men. After that, he was in and out of the team and new manager Roy Hodgson preferred Steven Reid, although Hodgson reckoned the move to Brighton was simply about giving him game time.

The future England manager said at the time: “I’m hoping he’ll get three good months down in Brighton which is better than three months here playing reserve team football because Jara is not a reserve team player.”

Di Matteo no doubt tipped off his old Chelsea pal Poyet about Jara’s capabilities, prompting his eventful time with the Seagulls.

He returned to West Brom at the end of the 2011-12 season, and the following season went out on loan again, this time to Nottingham Forest. On his release from West Brom in 2013, he joined Forest on a permanent deal but was one of seven players released a year later. It meant he went to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil without a club.

It has been while on international duty that Jara has made even more of a name for himself – and not in a good way!

After Jara had left Forest and moved to Germany he was caught up in a most unsavoury incident while playing for his country.

In a Copa America quarter-final in Santiago, which the hosts won 1-0 with a late goal, television images appeared to show Jara anally fingering Uruguay striker Edinson Cavani before then falling to the ground holding his face after the Uruguayan responded by flicking his hand onto the Chilean’s chin.

Cavani was shown a second yellow card for his role in the incident, but Jara escaped unpunished by the referee.

The South American confederation investigated the incident, and Jara was subsequently fined £4,775 and banned for three matches.

Jara’s club side, Mainz, were singularly unimpressed. Sporting director Christian Heidel told Bild: “We do not tolerate that. What makes me more angry than the prod, however, is what happens after. There is nothing I hate more than theatrics.”

Jara had previous against Uruguay too. During a running battle with the then-Liverpool striker Luis Suarez during a 2013 World Cup qualifier between Chile and Uruguay, Jara grabbed Suarez by the testicles, with Suarez responding with a punch in the face.

In January 2016, Jara left Mainz to return to Chile “for personal reasons” after his contract was terminated prematurely.

He now plays for the Santiago-based Club Universidad de Chile, one of the top sides in the country.

Pictures from The Argus show the Chilean in both Brighton strips and in West Brom’s colours.

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