The not-so hidden gems of FC Basel

Domestic champions for the last four years in a row, FC Basel are undoubtedly Switzerland’s top team and have been proving as much on the continent over the last couple of seasons.

The St. Jakob-Park outfit have embraced the underdog tag, with their first noteworthy giant-killing coming in 2010-11, as they knocked Manchester United out of the Champions League.

Murat Yakin’s men reached the semi-finals of the Europa League last term, beating sides such as Tottenham along the way, while this season they stand a real chance of making the Champions League knockout rounds.

Back-to-back victories over English giants Chelsea show the considerable ability of a team that has been written off as a European minnow in the past.

Given the modesty of the Swiss Super League, Basel’s best players have been unceremoniously snapped up over recent seasons after excelling in the Champions League.

The likes of Xherdan Shaqiri, Granit Xhaka and Aleksandar Dragović have all left the Swiss side for considerable transfer fees, and it is only natural that European scouts are eyeing up the latest players to make their name at St. Jakob-Park.

Although the strength of Basel lies in their collectiveness and ability to play as a team, two players have really shone in the side’s Champions League exploits this term.

Fabian SchärDespite both being aged 21, Mohamed Salah and Fabian Schär have displayed the abilities to be real stars in one of Europe’s top divisions and are undoubtedly Basel’s most-promising players.

Salah has been thrust into the public eye with captivating performances and goals in both victories over Chelsea, and as a result his time in Switzerland is thought to be limited as the vultures circle.

The Egypt international was snapped up by Basel last year after impressing for El-Mokawloon in his homeland, and has wasted little time in adjusting to European football.

The versatile left-winger is a scorer and creator of goals, with his excellent movement off the ball, pace and skill making him one of Basel’s most formidable attacking weapons.

Internationally, after impressing for the under-20 and 23 sides, he was given his debut for the Egypt senior side back in 2011. Salah has proved to be something of a talisman for the northern African nation, with an excellent goalscoring record of 17 goals in 26 appearances to boot.

At the other end of the pitch, Basel have an accomplished and commanding defender that is as equally deserving of praise.

Schär developed through the youth ranks of his home-town team FC Wil, before getting his big move to Basel a couple of months after Salah. In the 18 months with the Swiss champions the centre-half has made a starting berth in the team his own, and has starred as a result.

The 21-year-old’s ability on the ball is the first thing to catch the eye, with his range of passing from deep and control exceptional. Couple this with good positional sense and all the physical attributes needed to play at the top level, and Schär is a talent of note.

In his short career to date Schär has offered an additional positive attribute not expected of defenders; an eye for goal. The centre-half has averaged roughly a goal every five games throughout his club career, while he has netted three times for Switzerland in five senior caps.

With more European football and the World Cup at the end of the season to look forward to, Schär has the platform to rise to the next level.

Unfortunately for Basel, the likelihood of these two stars remaining in Switzerland past this season is small, but they have already played their part in the continued progression of the club domestically and in Europe.

By
I am a freelance football journalist from Northern Ireland living in Broome in Western Australia. I have worked for top media outlets such as FourFourTwo, goal.com, Soccerlens, Football Fancast and Here is the City. I am a lifelong and long-suffering Tottenham fan. Follow me on Twitter at @90MinsOnline
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