With only three coaches since the
turn of the century, Champions League upstarts FC Basel are a
rare case of stability in the turbulent sea of European club
A large contingent of home-grown talent, prudence in the
transfer market and boisterous local support makes them the sort
of club which UEFA president Michel Platini, who is desperately
trying to persuade European clubs to reign in their spending,
would like to see more of.
FC Basel, conquerors of Manchester United in the group
stage, pulled off another upset on Wednesday with their 1-0 win
over four-times European champions Bayern Munich in the first
leg of their round of 16 tie.
Seven of the players who started the game are Swiss and four
of those are young players who have passed through the club's
much praised youth divisions.
They include goalkeeper Yann Sommer (23), who produced an
outstanding performance to deny Bayern's forwards. Midfielders
Granit Xhaka (19) and Fabian Frei (23) and winger Xherdan
Shaqiri (20), one of Swiss football's brightest prospects.
Twenty-two-year substitute Valentin Stocker, who scored the
late winner, is another who has passed through Basel's youth
The other Swiss team members, midfield strongman Benjamin
Huggel and striking duo Alexander Frei and Marco Streller, are
all players in their 30s who began their careers at the club and
have returned for a swansong after playing abroad.
Foreign signings are used to plug the holes with Basel again
shying away from big names.
Instead, the club is happy to be used as a springboard by
young players looking for a starting point in Europe before
moving to a bigger league.
Dominant at home, having won the Swiss league six times
since 2002, Basel have long appreciated that they cannot compete
with the clubs from the bigger European leagues, although they
can give them a hard time.
"We know who we are and where we want to go," said club
president Bernhard Heusler, after Basel were drawn against
Bayern in December.
Heusler said that he is aware the club will eventually have
to sell their best young players abroad such as the impish
Shaqiri who, in a twist of fate, has already been signed by
Bayern and will join the club in June.
Basel's relative success could serve as a role model for
other clubs in leagues outside the big five of England, Spain,
Italy, France and Germany, who try to over-reach themselves.
Salzburg, who have dominated the domestic scene in recent
years, have gone down the opposite path since being taken over
by the Red Bull drinks company in 2005.
The club have spent lavishly on foreign players, yet failed
in their stated ambition of playing in the Champions League
having repeatedly fallen in the qualifying rounds.
Fans were alienated when the colours were changed to Red
Bull's trademark red and blue, so much so that a splinter group
set up a new club who play in the original purple and white and
have now reached the third division.
Basel, on the other hand, regularly pull in crowds of
between 20,000 and 30,000 for a home match, no mean feat in a
small country where soccer vies with alpine skiing and ice
hockey for public interest.
However, for away games in places such as Thun and Sion,
they can find themselves playing in front of only a few
Basel's policy of continuity extends to the coaches. Former
Tottenham Hotspur manager Christian Gross laid the foundations
for the current side when he was in charge from 1999 to 2009.
He was followed by Thorsten Fink and when the former Bayern
midfielder left to join Hamburg SV in October, he was replaced
by his assistant Heiko Vogel, who, like his predecessor, is
another German taking his first steps in senior coaching.
Having lost his first match in Europe against Benfica, the
36-year-old Vogel has an unbeaten record since then.
"My team have unbelievable willpower, a good sense of
understanding on the pitch, a sense of who they are and a
healthy self-confidence," said Vogel.
"There's a great spirit, we are happy at work every day and
that makes a difference.
Brazil forward voices his support for protesters who have taken to the streets of Brazil
Tahiti coach says it would be "quite impossible" for his team to beat world champions Spain
Neymar puts in best performance for his country in 2-0 win over Mexico in Confederations Cup
Substitute Sebastian Giovinco taps in late goal to secure Italy thrilling 4-3 win over Japan
Who would you rather have playing for your club?
12 months out, the stars look to the World Cup
Your questions answered by an A to Z of legends
75% of all TV is Bale
On the road to ruin
Adidas Nitrocharge for you
FourFourTwo is brought to you by Haymarket Consumer Media & FourFourTwo is part of Haymarket Sport
| International Licensing | © Haymarket Media Group 2010