Gianluca Busio has been on the scene for long enough now that it can be easy to forget that he's still just 18 years old.
The Sporting Kansas City homegrown product has shown flashes of his prodigious talent over the course of his 48 career MLS appearances since 2018, but as Sporting go through preseason preparations ahead of their 2021 opener, there's a sense that there's another level that Busio can reach if he can put it all together over the course of a full MLS season.
Earlier this week, Busio was named as one of the world's top young players by research group CIES Football Observatory and Peter Vermes is among those who think 2021 could wind up being his full-on breakout.
"I know what I believe about him. I think [Busio is] an incredible talent, I really do," the SKC coach told reporters on a video call this week. "Every year he surprises me, every year he impresses me. He’s incredibly mature for his age, he knows what he wants. He’s got a great outlook. He knows that, at the end of the day, the things that he wants are going to come to him because he plays well, not just hopeful of it and he works hard towards it.
"I’m happy for him because he deserves it and I think the good thing is he’s getting a little underestimated at the moment. I always think that’s good for players who have the internal fire like he does and I think he’s going to show a lot of people that he’s the real deal."
Busio has also said that he sees this season as the year where he expects to shoulder the biggest load of his career, hopefully playing as the club's No. 10. His development as a key cog for an SKC team that is expected to contend in the Western Conference will be one of the key storylines to keep an eye on with the club throughout the season.
"He’s a very, very good talent, but really what impresses me the most is his maturity and the way he goes about his business," Vermes said. "He’s not arrogant, he’s got a humble confidence, goes out and works his butt off every day. His teammates respect him for it, they all see it, and the kid’s 18 years old. That’s pretty impressive. I’m fortunate to be around him every day.
"He’s a really good kid and I expect a lot from him this year, I really do. I think he’s going to – not that he hasn’t done it already – but I really think that he’s going to impress some people in a different way coming into this season."