The doors are still swinging shut behind Gianluca Busio at Sporting Kansas City as the teen sensation pursues his dreams of playing in Europe following his transfer to Italian club Venezia.
Busio, 19, will leave behind him countless unforgettable memories for Sporting KC fans over his four seasons as a Sporting KC regular. People will still continue to follow his journey in Europe, and welcome him back with open arms when he inevitably plays in Children’s Mercy Park again one day for the U.S. Men’s National Team.
It’ll be a tough pill to swallow for many fans, as the golden boy of the Sporting Kansas City Academy outgrew his childhood and moved onto larger pastures in the form of one of the top leagues in the world.
But it was a move that was always going to happen sooner rather than later. It was just a matter of when and where.
As it so happens, right now was the best time for both Busio and Sporting KC.
For Sporting Kansas City, it’ll certainly be tough to replace a player of Busio’s quality and versatility in such a short space of time. The club has signed midfielder José Mauri, a player with the ability to play in both the six and the eight.
Busio’s Sporting KC contract ran through the 2021 season with an option for 2022, so the club could have opted to hold onto him for longer, at least for the remainder of the 2021 season. But European clubs buy players at a much lower rate during the January transfer window, especially in the aftermath of COVID-19.
But if Sporting kept Busio until next summer, he would only have a year left on his contract and his value would depreciate as Sporting would have less bargaining power.
For Busio himself, Venezia seems to be the perfect landing spot for a young American player looking to make a name for himself. Nineteen-year-old Tanner Tessman, formally of FC Dallas, also had the same idea when he made the move to Venezia last month.
Sporting KC head coach Peter Vermes has said all along that the move had to be right for both Sporting KC and Busio. That includes regular playing time and the opportunity to grow, rather than being loaned out to other teams repeatedly.
Vermes held discussions with one of Venezia’s owners prior to the transfer, stressing the importance of there being a set plan in place for Busio — or “Bus” (pronounced Boo-s) as he’s known around the club.
“We had some very good conversations and I explained to him that it’s important for us to understand what the plan was for the player. I feel confident that Bus is going to get a real opportunity there,” Vermes said Friday.
“Now, obviously he (Busio) has to go and perform and he has to play well, just like any player has to do on any team, but I truly think that they are counting on him.”
The next question is where does Sporting KC go now? In the immediate future, the team has to prepare for a quick series of games at Colorado on Saturday and then a Leagues Cup quarterfinal at home against Leon on Tuesday.
KC will be stretched thin in the midfield heading into the Colorado game — Ilie Sanchez (yellow card accumulation) and Felipe Hernandez (personal reasons) are both ruled out while Cam Duke is still listed as questionable with a hamstring injury.
That leaves just Roger Espinoza, Gadi Kinda, Remi Walter and Grayson Barber, who’s yet to make his MLS debut.
Sporting is unable to count on new signing Mauri as he’s still going through the application process for his P1 Visa that will allow him to play in the United States.
Vermes hopes to have him available in the “next couple of weeks.” The Argentine-Italian midfielder also hasn’t played in a competitive game since May, only participating in preseason training and friendlies, leading to some fitness concerns.
But Vermes still plans to get Mauri on the field as soon as possible.
His arrival in Kansas City perfectly lined up with Busio’s departure, and his signing wasn’t a reaction to Busio’s sale. Sporting had been monitoring Mauri for the past year and wanted to sign him earlier but the finances weren’t right at the time.
But following Mauri’s release from his former club, Argentine side Talleres de Cordoba, Kansas City was able to bring him in on a free transfer with a contract through the 2022 season and an option for 2023.
“It worked out timing-wise in a really good way to help us in the midfield because obviously with Bus with his versatility that he had within the team was an important aspect,” Vermes said. “This player (Mauri) has some of that as well and so it just worked out.”