We often refer to that young athlete who is good enough to become a professional while still a teenager as “one in a million.”
Gianluca Busio’s former coach at NC Fusion Soccer Club thinks he’s more like, “One in ten million.”
And that’s about how many teenage soccer players sign full, professional contracts for a major league as Gianluca did when he signed with Sporting Kansas City of Major League Soccer. And, as a 17-year-old (he could be just finishing his senior season of high school soccer), Gianluca has the challenge of not just matching skills with much older players, but dealing with their physical maturity.
“I think that, for sure, is the main thing that was hardest for me to adapt to,” said Gianluca, about playing in Major League Soccer as a teen. “You're playing with grown men, they're stronger, bigger than me so you have to be better at other parts of your game so, obviously, I'm working at my strength and getting bigger but also that comes with age.”
Of course, he has always done battle with older players – especially his brother, Matteo, who also played with the NC Fusion and, later, at UNC Greensboro.
But that NC Fusion coach, Wade Forte, saw something special in Gianluca from a very early age.
“He did things easier than everyone else,” said Forte, who played himself at Virginia Tech. “It looked like his ball control was quite easy, like, it was effortless. It's just that ‘it factor’ that Gianluca has.”
The “it factor” has taken Gianluca to the US National Team in the youth ranks, with a recent call-up to the under-20 national team and, before that, captaining the side in the Under-17 World Cup.
“I've worn the armband a couple of times,” said Gianluca, of being captain. “It gives you a lot of pride because not a lot of people get to play for the national team at any age level. So, when you do get called in and you put on the jersey and walk out, it's different singing the national anthem with your national team.”
“Will we produce another U17 World Cup goal scorer and captain?” wonders Forte, who says a key to Gianluca’s success was his desire to work on his game, outside of formal training.
“He would look up skills on YouTube and, as a player looking for new ideas, new tricks, new skills, he would work on those and make sure he was trying those at home, without the coaches,” Forte said.
This may ultimately lead to Gianluca’s dream of playing overseas in his father’s homeland of Italy, as rumors abound online about interest from European giants like Manchester United and even his father’s favorite team, Inter Milan. Gianluca’s dad, Alessandro, is from Italy. That’s a big reason why the player Gianluca most emulates is fellow midfielder and Italian legend Andrea Pirlo.
“Because of because Italian background and my dad, we all watched (Italy’s top pro league) Serie A,” Gianluca said. “Pirlo wasn't the fastest or strongest but he controlled the game and you could tell that the game ran through him.”
See Gianluca score his first professional goal in this edition of the Buckley Report.