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The incredible starting XI of players sold by Basel

Ivan Rakitic (L) and Mohamed Salah (R) are two of the most famous player to play for Basel
Ivan Rakitic (L) and Mohamed Salah (R) are two of the most famous player to play for Basel
Naveen Ravi Joseph

Basel is one of the biggest clubs in Switzerland and some of the best Swiss players have played for the club. In fact, one of the club’s most famous players, Joan Gamper, is the founder of FC Barcelona and FC Zurich.

The Swiss club has won twenty league titles of which 12 were won in the 21st century. In recent years, they’ve done well in European competitions as well. They’ve progressed in the Champions League or the Europa League at the expense of one of Manchester United, Liverpool, Spurs or Chelsea.

Basel’s success has earned them a lot of fans including tennis ace Roger Federer. However, their success has also come at a cost. Over the years, they’ve groomed or signed some fantastic young players but as soon as these players start performing consistently, they are poached by other European teams.

Some of the players Basel have sold in recent years have gone on to win numerous trophies and break long-standing records. So here is an XI of stars who played for the Swiss giants.


Goalkeeper - Yann Sommer (Borussia Monchengladbach)

Sommer is the Switzerland's #1
Sommer is Switzerland's #1

Yann Sommer is a product of the Basel academy which you will soon realize has honed some fantastic players.

Sommer had two loan spells with FC Vaduz and Grasshopper Club Zürich before becoming a regular for Basel between the sticks. He won four league titles and a Swiss Cup with Basel before leaving them in 2014 to join Bundesliga club Borussia Monchengladbach as a replacement for Marc-André ter Stegen.

The 29-year-old has been with Gladbach since as their first choice goalkeeper and has earned a reputation as one of the best goalkeepers in the league and Europe. He is also his country’s first choice goalkeeper with 39 caps to his name.

This summer, he was linked with Arsenal but a move never materialized. However, since he’s entering his 30s, a move away from Gladbach could happen soon.

Honourable mention: Tomáš Vaclík (Sevilla)

Full-backs - Michael Lang (Borussia Monchengladbach) and Manuel Akanji (Borussia Dortmund)

Akanji and Lang left Basel in 2018 albeit in different windows
Akanji and Lang left Basel in 2018 albeit in different windows

Borussia Monchengladbach seems to have a special liking for Swiss players. There are five Swiss players in their current squad and Michael Lang is the most recent addition.

Lang signed for Basel in 2015 from fellow Swiss club Grasshopper on a free transfer. Despite being a defender, he scored 26 goals in 121 games for Basel in three seasons including the winning goals against both Manchester United and Manchester City in the 2017/18 Champions League season.

The 27-year-old Swiss international joined Monchengladbach in the summer and the Bundesliga side is his first non-Swiss team.

The 23-year-old Manuel Akanji is not a full-back by trade but given his quality and the lack of options in the left-back position, he seemed the right choice.

Akanji joined Basel in 2015 from FC Winterthur and in his brief stint with Basel, he caught the eye with his composure and ability to play the ball out of the back.

He was linked with a move away from Basel in January 2018 with Liverpool one of the clubs interested in him. However, he joined Borussia Dortmund instead.

He has played 11 games for the Switzerland senior team and was a starter for them at the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

Centre-backs - Aleksandar Dragović (Bayer Leverkusen) and Fabian Schar (Newcastle United)

Dragovic (L) and Schar (R) defending against Fernando Torres of Chelsea in 2013
Dragovic (L) and Schar (R) defending against Fernando Torres of Chelsea in 2013

Aleksandar Dragovic was on loan at Leicester City last season and Fabian Schar is currently with Newcastle United. However, Premier League fans might remember both players for a different reason.

Dragovic was linked with a move to Manchester United for many years. It started when he was at Basel and continued even after he moved to Dynamo Kyiv. Schar, on the other hand, was linked with a move to Arsenal when he was at Basel.

Dragovic and Schar were Basel’s first choice centre-backs in 2012/13 when they reached the semifinal of the Europa League. Their performance during that season was a major reason why they were linked to a host of European clubs.

The Austrian, Dragovic, moved to Dynamo Kyiv in 2013 before joining Bayer Leverkusen in 2016. He’s now back at the Bundesliga club after a season on loan at Leicester.

Schar was with Basel from 2012 to 2015 before moving to the Bundesliga like many other Swiss internationals. He was with Hoffenheim for two seasons before moving to Deportivo La Coruna last summer.

After a year in LaLiga, he’s now in the Premier League with Newcastle United.

Midfielders - Mohamed Elneny (Arsenal), Granit Xhaka (Arsenal) and Ivan Rakitic (Barcelona)

Xhaka and Elneny are now teammates at Arsenal
Xhaka and Elneny are now teammates at Arsenal

Mohamed Elneny is one of two Arsenal players in this XI and also one of two Egyptian internationals.

Elneny played 142 games for Basel winning four league titles before joining Arsenal in January 2016. The Egyptian has been a fringe player at Arsenal and has played just 72 games in two and a half seasons. However, he has won the FA Cup and the Community Shield in 2017.

His Arsenal teammate, Granit Xhaka, is another famed product of the Basel academy, but unlike Elneny, Xhaka didn’t move from Basel to Arsenal directly.

It has been already mentioned that many Swiss internationals move to the Bundesliga and many of them join Borussia Monchengladbach. Xhaka is one of those players.

He joined Gladbach in 2012 and played there for four seasons before joining Arsenal in 2016. Xhaka has split opinion since his move to Arsenal, but he’s only 25 and has the potential to be a world class midfielder.

Rakitic is also a product of the Basel academy
Rakitic is also a product of the Basel Academy

The final midfielder in this XI, Ivan Rakitic, is one that may come as a surprise to many.

Rakitic was born and raised in Switzerland as his Croatian family migrated there. In fact, he played for the Switzerland Under-21 team after coming through the ranks of Basel. However, in 2007, he opted to play for Croatia and made his debut for them in the same year.

As a teenager, he impressed for the Basel first team and in the 2006/07 season, he scored 11 goals in 33 league games.

The following summer, he moved to Schalke, played four seasons for them before joining Sevilla and spending another four years there. He has been a crucial member of the Barcelona team for the last four seasons and is still contracted to the club.

Forwards - Mohamed Salah (Liverpool), Xherdan Shaqiri (Liverpool) and Breel Embolo (Schalke)

Salah is one of the best players in the world at the moment
Salah is one of the best players in the world at the moment

At least one of the forwards in this XI needs no introduction. Mohamed Salah joined Basel in 2012 and played 79 games for them scoring 20 goals before moving elsewhere.

Salah was close to joining Liverpool in January 2014 before Chelsea swooped in and signed him. The Egyptian struggled in his first stint in the Premier League but found his feet in the Serie A with Fiorentina and Roma.

In 2017, he finally moved to Liverpool and in his first season with the club, he scored 44 goals in 52 games of which 32 were scored in 36 league games. His 32 Premier League goals in 2017/18 is the highest ever by any player in a single 38-game Premier League season.

His record-breaking season with Liverpool earned him numerous individual honours including the PFA, FWA and the Premier League Player of the Season.

Today, Salah is undoubtedly one of the best players in the world.

Shaqiri and Embolo left Basel to join a Bundesliga club
Shaqiri and Embolo left Basel to join a Bundesliga club

Salah’s Liverpool teammate, Xherdan Shaqiri, is a product of the Basel academy. He currently plays as a backup to the Egyptian at Liverpool but interestingly, Basel signed Salah to replace Shaqiri when he left the club in 2012.

Shaqiri rose to fame in the 2011/12 season when he played a starring role as Basel knocked Manchester United out of the Champions League. Bayern Munich agreed on a deal in advance to sign the player before the 2012/13 season and in his debut season for the Bavarians, he won the treble albeit playing a squad role.

The Swiss international was close to a move to Liverpool in 2014 before Bayern pulled the plug. A few months later, he moved to Inter Milan before making a shocking move to Stoke City.

Like Salah, Shaqiri also got his move to Liverpool years after a deal fell through.

The final player in this XI, Breel Embolo, is the fifth Basel academy product in this XI, the seventh Swiss international in this XI and the eighth player in this XI to leave Basel and directly join a Bundesliga club.

Embolo is a versatile forward who was born in Cameroon but raised in Switzerland. He opted to play for his adopted nation instead of his country of birth.

He scored 31 goals in 91 games for Basel as a teenager before following the well-trodden path to the Bundesliga. His debut season with Schalke ended prematurely due to an injury, but he’s fit now and will be hoping to fire an all cylinders this season.

Honourable mention - Mohamed Elyounoussi (Southampton)


The XI of players sold by Basel
The XI of players sold by Basel
Edited by Raunak J

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