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FC Basel: The garden for stars

They spend less than earn, winning titles and not missing a single season in European competition. At the same time this club is really beloved in the city and fully integrated into its culture. Utopia? Certainly not! FC Basel deserved to be the first in a series of our stories in english version. The guide — sports director Georg Heitz.

— Tell us some about the development strategy of FCB. How do you manage to work counting every franc in club’s account?
— You know, everybody including players in our club know that we cannot afford to spend more than we recieve. I would say that FCB is great starting place for unknown players who want to shine on the European stage, because we regularly play in European competition. We prepare players for top clubs.

— And do the top players want to play for FCB?
— Only if they are eighteen. When they turn twenty-two, they tend to go to a stronger league — German, Russian, English. We can not afford to buy players of the national teams of Portugal and Spain, when they are being in their prime.

— Looks like swiss superleague is a league for future stars, right?
— Exactly.

— George, explain why Basel is considered the capital of swiss football, although Grasshoppers Zurich had won more titles?
— This is due to our achievements in the 2000s, because we regularly won the championship and the Cup, always playing in European competition. Economically FCB is much stronger than other clubs from our league. We have the largest stadium in the country, 24,000 club cards holders. We strive to invite the best swiss players. So everything is allright!

— There are lot of veterans in the squad now who began careers in red-blue shirt. Is this a special devotion? Do you promise them any club function at the end of your career?
— Yes, it has happened sometimes. We highly value guys who began their careers in FCB and eager to finish it here. Of course we would like them to come back not in thirty-four years, but at least thirty to bring even more of their best, but this is quite random.

— Your head coach Murat Yakin is only 38 year old. What future do you see for him?
— You know, the young coach can make many mistakes because of a lack of experience, but this is an only one side of the coin. Do not forget that it is much easier to find a common language with players, to build relationships with them. Murat was captain of FCB and played for team Switzerland, he is respected by everybody. He is not the first year when he is a head coach, and we are ready for the fact that sooner or later he will be invited to Germany or Russia. He is really good specialist.

— Footballers from which countries the easiest to adapt to Switzerland?
— You probably noticed that there are different nationalities in our league. I would say that the most difficult to get players from South America, because they are very expensive. We find it hard to compete with Brazilian clubs, they now have a lot of money. But we do not close for ourself some markets trying to look everywhere — both in Africa and Asia.

— What principles of scouting are mostly suitable for your club?
— We are very cautious about the work in the transfer market. But, as I said, first of all pay attention to the promising young players that did not have time to raise the price.

— Recently FCB have beaten Zenit in the Europa League. Are there any players from that rich club from the Eastern Europe who might have been appeared in FCB earlier?
— We kept an eye on Axel Witsel, he was in belgian Standard and then he proved to grow into a real star. But it was unrealistic transfer for us because he was constantly being tempted by top clubs. Although, of course, it would be great to have such a skillful player. And well, my dream is to buy Alexander Kerzhakov!

— In your opinion, why not so many players go to Russia from swiss superleague?
— Now it’s changing. Seydou Doumbia, Juhani Ojala ...

— ...and both previously presented Young Boys. Is it the best club for making transfers to Russia?
(Laughs) Maybe. The problem is that in your league a lot of skilled players, so you have only to look towards the top players. That’s why the transition is not so much.

— May be any of Russian clubs interested in FCB players?
— Of course. The most striking example — Alexander Dragovic, which was very close to move in winter. Last summer we sold Shaqiri to Bayern Munchen, but many Russian clubs have wanted to see him in their squads.

— So why did you not sell him to Russia? Probably he could have earned more.
— Shaqiri wanted to join Bayern. Look, Switzerland — is the younger brother of Germany, as the Ukraine to Russia. For Shaqiri the transfer to Munchen was like a dream.

— You've mentioned Russia and Ukraine brothership. What do you think about possible reunion of their leagues? This idea is very popular in Russia now among people who donate money into football...
— Oh, I think it is very difficult to do on the basis of the UEFA policy. However, I understand that the top clubs always want to play with each other, the fans to watch the battle of Zenit and Shakhtar, or Kiev and Spartak Moscow. But it’s very difficult to achieve.

— So, the union of swiss and say belgian leagues — just a stupid idea?
— At the moment of course. But this is not such a bad idea. We'll see what will future bring.

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