Gianluca Busio strives to make an impact on, off the field

Gianluca Busio

Gianluca Busio just wants to make an impact. Whether that’s on the soccer field, or in his community, it’s what he strives for. In 2020, the 18-year-old finally found his way to a consistent impact on the field, but not without a bumpy start.

Gianluca Busio strives to make an impact on, off the field

Busio was given the chance to start Sporting KC’s MLS is Back Quarterfinal matchup against the Philadelphia Union. That matchup wasn’t billed as a must-see matchup because of marquee names in MLS, but because two of the league’s brightest youth prospects were facing off against each other.

The talk in the buildup was more so about the scouts from which European teams were going to be keeping an eye on the match to see Busio and Brendan Aaronson face off. Aaronson put in a Man of the Match performance in the Union’s 3-1 win. Gianluca Busio was substituted at half-time. Busio was kicking himself for that match too.

“Coming off quarantine, I didn’t really push myself enough to be ready for the tournament,” Busio told Last Word on Soccer. “I don’t blame anyone but myself. I took that to heart.”

Busio could have blamed it on the difficulties the stoppage in play brought about both mentally and physically. While he acknowledged that it certainly could’ve played a part, he refused to let himself get out of the blame for it.

“I’m not going to make excuses,” Busio said. “It was me that was out there playing, and I didn’t play well. So, whenever the season was going to start again, I was going to prepare. After the tournament, we had a month or so of a break before the season started again. That month was just me working towards proving everyone, and myself, that I can do this.”

Gianluca Busio, Defensive Midfielder?

The absence of Sporting’s lone defensive midfielder, Ilie Sanchez, who was taking care of his family in Spain, opened up a spot in the midfield for Busio. While nowhere near his normal position it was a shot, which is what Busio wanted. He was determined more than ever to make his mark.

“Coming off a not-so-good MLS is Back Tournament, staying on the field was big for me,” Busio said. “I didn’t know if I was going to get that opportunity for a little while.”

He continued, “My mindset was simply, ‘I don’t care where I play, I’m going out there and proving something.’ That really helped me playing the six. It made me more disciplined and taught me more things about myself playing that position. So later in the season when I started playing further up in the attack, that foundation, that change of scenery at the six really helped me with everything.”

Busio filled in admirably for Sanchez, putting in a couple of Man of the Match type performances. When Sanchez returned to full fitness, he ended the season starting multiple games as the attacking midfielder. He became the youngest player in MLS history to score and assist in a playoff match when he scored the “thought-to-be” winner just before injury time.

The trials of the summer ultimately produced a young man that was making an impact on the field. But other events throughout the summer also spurred on his inspiration to make an impact off the field.

An impact off the field

As many teams were gearing up to go to the MLS is Back tournament in Orlando, protests broke out across the country in response to the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. Sporting KC, like many teams, took the opportunity to have some very open, and difficult conversations as a squad about racism that the players have experienced, and what the team’s role is going to be in this movement. Busio was awakened hearing the stories of some of his teammate’s experiences while coming to grips with some of his own.

“You shake somebody’s hand, and act very polite, and talk very smooth and clean, people are always like, ‘Oh wow, you talk white,’ and they act surprised because it’s coming from a Black man,” Busio said.

Being a part of the Black Players for Change demonstration on the opening night of the MLS is Back Tournament marked a powerful moment for Busio, as he recognized the role and platform that he has to help push for change.

“The last year was probably one of the most eye-opening years for me,” Busio said. “Being young and Black, and seeing all that was going on, that really made me want to motivate people and help inspire the younger generation, who don’t really understand it. They don’t have much to say about it. And I know, because at one time that was me. So, it’s important to make it not only easier for them but to talk to them about it. I really started to realize it this year, and it made me want to really try to work towards change, even if I only have a small part in it.”

Playing in Europe is inevitable for Busio. Some of the largest clubs in Italy have been keeping tabs on the midfielder. A move to Italy, where he holds a passport from, would also put Busio in the hotbed for racist abuse towards players in Europe. That doesn’t deter him though.

“It sounds bad, but I know at some point I’ll have to deal with it, and that’s what we’re trying to change,” Busio said. “We’re trying to change it so you don’t have to deal with it, and hopefully, if I eventually go [to Europe] I can be a part of that change. It’s bad I even have to talk about it, but I’m not going to shy away from it and let it ruin an opportunity. I’m going to try to bring it to light and really make a change.”

Ready to make an impact on and off the field, Busio is about to embark on his most important season yet. Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Club Brugge, Juventus, Liverpool, Fiorentina, Manchester United and Inter Milan all have been linked or rumored to have inquired or are “keeping tabs” on the midfielder. Sporting KC handed him the number 10 kit. With the importance that comes with that number and the European move inching closer,  he wants to make an even bigger impact in 2021.

“First for the team, we want to finish first in the West again, which is always the main goal for the regular season,” Busio said. “For me, I enjoy scoring goals and getting assists so I definitely want to get into the double digits for goals and assists, even both. That’s one thing I’m working towards, is getting on the scoresheet a lot this year.”

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