Football Features

How FC Basel could have lined up if their star players had stayed put

By Squawka News

How FC Basel could have lined up if they hadn't sold their star players

Published: 18:35, 25 September 2020

Europe’s top five leagues often dominate the conversation when it comes to the top teams in the continent, but there are others who may want to be considered. 

Although the strength of the league as a whole may not be high, over the years FC Basel have mixed with some of Europe’s best, owing to their domination of Swiss football. Between 2007/08 and 2016/17, Basel secured eight consecutive league titles, taking their total tally to 20 across all iterations of the top flight.

However, the past three years have seen a new team take control of the Swiss Super League, with Young Boys taking over with their 12th, 13th and 14th titles. In those three seasons, Basel have finished second twice and third once, finishing behind Young Boys and St Gallen in 2019/20.

However, although they have slightly dropped in the standings, Basel also remain perennial knock-out round qualifiers in European competition and their consistency is even more impressive given they have to regenerate their first-team squad every year – almost without fail.

Over the past few summers, Basel have had to sell a number of their star players to bigger clubs across Europe, but how would they look today had all their stars stayed put?

Goalkeeper: Yann Sommer

How FC Basel could have lined up if they hadn't sold their star players

Joined from: Basel’s academy

Current club: Borussia Mönchengladbach

Nationality: Switzerland

After progressing through Basel’s academy and excelling on loan at FC Vaduz in Liechtenstein (of all places) and then Grasshoppers in his homeland, Sommer was finally promoted to first-choice goalkeeper at the club in 2011.

He played a key role in the four successive league titles that followed before embarking on a new adventure with Borussia Mönchengladbach in the Bundesliga, where he remains a safe pair of hands.

Right-Back: Michael Lang

Joined from: Grasshopper

Current club: Borussia Mönchengladbach

Nationality: Switzerland

A regular right-back during his three years at the club, Michael Lang scored six times to help Basel claim their 20th league title in 2016/17.

Lang joined Sommer at Gladbach in 2018 but spent last season on loan at Werder Bremen, and may not be in Marco Rose’s league plans for the new campaign despite a cup appearance so far.

Centre-Back: Manuel Akanji

How FC Basel could have lined up if they hadn't sold their star players

Joined from: Winterthur

Current club: Borussia Dortmund

Nationality: Switzerland

Manuel Akanji helped Basel win two Swiss league titles during his time at the club before leaving for Borussia Dortmund in the summer of 2018.

Since that move, Akanji has been establishing himself as one of the most exciting ball-playing defenders in Europe and helped Dortmund reassert themselves as one of the Bundesliga‘s most-feared teams.

Centre-Back: Fabian Schar

Joined from: FC Wil 1900

Current club: Newcastle United

Nationality: Switzerland

A reliable defender with a penchant for scoring goals, as eight in 52 caps for Switzerland attests, Fabian Schar emerged as a defender of some repute while playing for Basel in the Champions League.

After being continually linked with a move to the Premier League, Schar instead pitched up at Hoffenheim in the Bundesliga in 2017 and helped the club stave off the threat of relegation in his first season.

In his second campaign there, Hoffenheim went one better and secured Champions League qualification via a fourth-placed Bundesliga finish.

Schar, however, only made six appearances in the league, down from 24 the previous year, and moved to Deportivo de La Coruña. Schar impressed during his stint there and finally got his Premier League move, joining Newcastle United in 2018 where he remains.

Left-Back: Adama Traore

Joined from: Vitoria

Current club: Melbourne Victory

Nationality: Ivory Coast

Probably the only weak link of this team, Traore was allowed to depart in the summer of 2017 by Basel boss Raphael Wicky, joining Turkish side Goztepe before since moving onto Melbourne Victory.

Traore has 13 Ivory Coast caps to his name to date.

Central Midfield: Mohamed Elneny

How FC Basel could have lined up if they hadn't sold their star players

Joined from: El Mokawloon

Current club: Arsenal

Nationality: Egypt

Following in the footsteps of his compatriot Mohamed Salah (more on him in a bit), Mohamed Elneny joined Basel in January 2013 to compensate for the departure of Granit Xhaka to Borussia Monchengladbach.

The move was a resounding success, albeit after a relatively slow start, as Elneny became a driving force in the club’s midfield. His impressive displays attracted the attention of Arsenal, where he initially appeared to flourish since his move in January 2016.

Despite his popularity among Arsenal fans, Elneny dropped down the pecking order and spent last season loan at Besiktas. However, he is now back and appears to be in the plans of new Gunners boss Mikel Arteta.

Centre Midfield: Granit Xhaka

Joined from: Basel’s academy

Current club: Arsenal

Nationality: Switzerland

One big reason for Elneny’s initially decreasing game time at Arsenal was the arrival of fellow Basel alumni Xhaka, signed by the Gunners from Gladbach for over £30m in 2016.

Xhaka, who at 28 has already captained the Swiss national side, forced his way into Basel’s starting XI as a teenager and his form culminated in a move to Gladbach, where he excelled for four years prior to signing for the Gunners.

He would become Arsenal‘s captain under former boss Unai Emery, though that didn’t last very long as he was stripped of the armband after an on-pitch outburst.

Centre Midfield: Ivan Rakitić

Joined from: Basel’s academy

Current club: Sevilla

Nationality: Croatia

Another player who Basel struggled to hold on to for too long was Ivan Rakitić, who after netting an impressive 11 goals in 34 league games was snapped up by Schalke 04 in 2007. (You didn’t remember he played for Schalke either, did you?)

A fruitful spell in the Bundesliga was followed by a career-defining period with Sevilla, where his form attracted the attention of European heavyweights Barcelona.

Moving to Catalunya in 2014, Rakitic won plenty of major honours and also reached the 2018 World Cup final with Croatia, which cemented his reputation as one of the finest midfielders around. After six successful years at Barcelona, Rakitic returned to Sevilla, already slotting into their midfield.

Right-Wing: Xherdan Shaqiri

How FC Basel could have lined up if they hadn't sold their star players

Joined from: Basel’s academy

Current club: Liverpool

Nationality: Switzerland

Nicknamed the ‘Powercube’ due to his stocky frame, Xherdan Shaqiri further highlights the strength of Basel’s academy, having risen through the ranks to become a first-team star at St Jakob’s Park.

Basel actually managed to get plenty of game time out of Shaqiri, hanging on to him for three seasons before he departed for Bayern Munich, where he won the Champions League in 2013. The prodigiously gifted winger is now playing for Liverpool, via a short stint with Inter Milan and a three-year spell with Stoke City.

Left-Wing: Mohamed Salah

How FC Basel could have lined up if they hadn't sold their star players

Joined from: El Mokawloon

Current club: Liverpool

Nationality: Egypt

Whoever is doing Basel’s scouting in Egypt deserves a raise. Preceding the arrival of Elneny was Salah, who made the move to Switzerland in 2012, quickly establishing himself as one of the brightest young talents on the continent soon afterwards.

An ill-fated spell at Chelsea has been the single anomaly in what’s otherwise been a successful career so far. Salah lit up Serie A at Roma, following a similarly dazzling spell with Fiorentina, before Liverpool broke their transfer record to sign him for £36 million in June 2017.

‘The Egyptian King’ went on to win the Premier League Golden Boot with 32 goals (44 in all competitions) in his debut season and is showing no signs of slowing down, helping the Reds secure their first league title in 30 years. We know he’s a right-winger, but Salah also performed for Basel on the left, and is more capable in this completely theoretical team than Shaqiri would be.

Striker: Breel Embolo

Joined from: Basel’s academy

Current club: Borussia Mönchengladbach

Nationality: Switzerland

The most recent jewel in Basel’s crown, Cameroonian-born Breel Embolo exploded onto the scene as a youngster.

The forward was one of three teenagers in Switzerland’s Euro 2016 squad and netted 30 goals in 86 games in all competitions for Basel before leaving the club for Schalke.

Embolo has suffered from injuries during his time in Germany, managing 12 goals in 61 games across all competitions for Schalke, before moving to Borussia Mönchengladbach in the summer of 2019.

Substitute Bench: Tomas Vaclik (Sevilla), Taulant Xhaka (Basel), Marcelo Diaz (Racing Club), Fabian Frei (Basel), Derlis Gonzalez (Olimpia), Valentin Stocker (Basel), Ricky van Wolfswinkel (Basel).