Sporting KC: You’ve probably heard the name, but do you know Gianluca Busio?

Nov 22, 2020; Kansas City, Kansas, USA;Sporting Kansas City forward Gianluca Busio (27) leaves the field during the match against the San Jose Earthquakes at Children's Mercy Park. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 22, 2020; Kansas City, Kansas, USA;Sporting Kansas City forward Gianluca Busio (27) leaves the field during the match against the San Jose Earthquakes at Children's Mercy Park. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports /

MLS has seen its fair share of talented prospects rise through club ranks and eventually make the European switch; the likes of Gio Reyna, Weston McKennie, Brendan Aaronson, Alphonso Davies, and more could have company abroad sooner rather than later.

In Gianluca Busio, Sporting KC has themselves the exact kind of player a European team should covet. At only 18, Busio is no stranger to attention. Already he’s turned the heads of MLS and USA supporters ever since becoming MLS’s youngest professional signing since Freddy Adu.

Born in North Carolina, Busio holds Italian citizenship through his father, a native of Brescia. The midfielder started with North Carolina Fusion before joining Sporting KC’s academy in 2016. It would only take a year for Sporting to promote the talent to the first team at just 15 before giving him his first-team debut at 16 against FC Dallas. Since then, the teen has racked up 57 appearances, scoring six times with six further assists. With his impressive track record, it should be no surprise that Busio has been steadily rising through the USMNT youth-set up, where he now finds himself with the U-20 squad.

You’ve probably already heard the name, now get to know the player set for as bright a future as any young American.

The Goods

If there’s anything European clubs value more than pressing these days, it’s versatility. That is something Busio has in bunches. Lively and hardworking, he can move into advanced attacking positions, patrol the middle of the pitch, or drop back towards his defenders to link-up play. His movement between roles during a game is seamless, allowing him to positively affect several areas. Regardless of where he is, Busio looks to find room for a pass to play or receive. During the 2020 campaign, KC began to regularly use the 18-year in a deeper position, operating as a defensive mid at times. He showed promise in that role, still managing to act as KC’s primary creative force. As Kansas City’s #10 this upcoming season, Busio’s creative output could explode as he works higher up the field.

Busio wouldn’t be in midfield if he couldn’t pass, and passing has proven excellent. With an array of chips, swerving balls, and more, the midfielder, as previously stated, can operate as an offensive focal point, even as his vision continues to develop. Busio has completed 88.5% of his short passes over his career, 89.8% of his medium passes, and 69% of long passes. His excellent medium passing statistics highlight a positive tendency, that being his ability to stretch defenses and quickly initiate a counter-attack.

More than operate as a creator, Busio can also be counted for recycling possession. With his natural passing and stout skills on the ball, the teenager can be relied on to retain possession and find an open teammate. Strong balance and keen anticipation mean the midfielder rarely turns the ball while aiding his ability to create a better position to pass.

The (Not so) Goods

While Busio has part of the footballing community salivating over his potential, he still has his flaws. At only 18, that is to be expected, and already he has shown strides to improve those areas of his game.

The first of those areas is his defense. If he is to stay in deep-lying roles, Busio will need to improve his defensive awareness. He is beatable in one-on-one situations. In 19 games in 2020, ball dribblers managed to get past him 1.1 times per game. In that same situation, Busio completed 12 tackles vs. 33 ball dribblers faced. His nine interceptions from last season were also disappointing, considering he was tasked with shielding the defense at times and further highlighting his room for his defensive anticipation to grow.

A significant area for the teenager to make strides in would be his shot selection. Busio consistently takes shots from outside the box, as well as in situations with better options. These habits have led to a .12 xG per 90.

One last area that, while not necessarily a weakness, is Busio’s dribbling. For someone with an eccentric passing arsenal, the dribbling is rudimentary in comparison. A rock for possession suddenly becomes flappable the closer he gets to the goal and the longer his dribbles become.

Looking Ahead

Busio has plenty of room to grow, especially physically, before the European clubs shell out multi-million dollars, but in time that is precisely what Sporting KC will get for their Homegrown stud. Busio has spoken of his desire to play overseas, and European clubs like Inter Milan and Manchester United have reportedly expressed interest. With his skills, the potential star seems well suited to succeed in Spain or his father’s country, Italy. With his Italian passport in hand and familial connections, it would seem Italy has the upper hand. Sporting KC will look to give Busio more responsibility this year, meaning expect to see Busio playing for a top-four quality side and working his way into Gregg Berhalter’s senior plans before long.