The Call Up

Gianluca Busio reflects on growing up at Sporting KC, Serie A and Lorenzo Insigne

Gianluca Busio was just a kid when he arrived at Sporting Kansas City’s academy. Last August, he left as a mature teenager, embarking on a European adventure with Venezia in Italy's Serie A.

The US men's national team midfielder joined the latest edition of The Call Up, reflecting on his tutelage with Sporting KC under manager Peter Vermes, the similarities between MLS and Serie A, and what fans can expect when Lorenzo Insigne makes his summertime arrival to Toronto FC.

Busio said he's aware of the reputation of Italy's top flight, known for its defensive tactical battles. But his experience thus far has actually been the opposite, with more wild open games than grudge matches.

“The league is just as fun as MLS, to be honest,” Busio, 19, said. “Obviously people say Serie A is a defensive, tactical, not a lot of goals, but when I come here, every game has pretty much been 4-3, the big teams are fighting for thrillers and stuff like that. It was kind of like MLS when I was playing in games versus anybody really.

“Your team is not doing well this year, but it will still be a 4-3 game and there’ll be comebacks and crazy goals. In that sense, the fun and the atmosphere, it’s still all close matches and fun to be in.”

Busio has also had a front-row seat to the brilliance of Insigne with Napoli, giving MLS fans a first-hand scouting report of TFC's big signing before he arrives as a Designated Player in July.

“Playing against him is unreal,” he said. "He’s obviously a very small guy, but the way he plays he’s like everywhere. Offensively, he’s just always in the right spots. I don’t think he has a position really.”

Busio credited Vermes with having a huge part in his development and why he’s plying his trade in Serie A. He arrived at Sporting as a 15-year-old, hearing stories about Vermes the disciplinarian who finds out everything that happens on and off the pitch.

But Busio said Vermes treated him like a man, allowing him to mature at his pace, while also having his teenage moments.

“He always says I was mature for my age but I think that was because of him,” Busio said. "He was a huge part of that. He was treating me as a professional, as a 25-year-old who has been here before. I think I just learned so much from that to mature quick, but he also was never forcing me to grow up. I still had the teenage part of me and he understood that and also he knew he believed in me and pushed me to be a better player also.”

Busio went to Venezia on a club-record deal, and now he's featured in 22 games (and counting) as Venezia look to stay in Italy's top-flight amid a relegation battle. He's also earned eight USMNT caps, partaking in last summer's Gold Cup and World Cup qualifiers.

For more from Busio, check out the entire The Call Up interview here.