FC Basel 1893 kick off their bid for a fourth straight Swiss title tonight but the focus is on a team who needed a play-off win to maintain their league place last season – FC Sion.
In the midst of UEFA EURO 2012, Sion grabbed headlines around the world with the signing of former Italian international Gennaro Gattuso. With FIFA World Cup, UEFA Champions League and Serie A winner's medals to his name, the 34-year-old had been released by AC Milan and reportedly had offers from Italy, Russia and even his former club Rangers FC, but opted instead for a two-year contract with a team aiming for a first Swiss title in 15 years.
"The people here in Valais have passion running through their veins," said Gattuso, whose down-to-earth demeanour and willingness to give his all in training – running and tackling hard, and making his voice heard on the pitch – has struck a chord among Sion fans. "They remind me of the people of Calabria, my home. They are emotional."
Club president Christian Constantin played an important role in signing Gattuso, but the midfielder has always thought highly of Swiss football. "The standard of play has always been good and it would be even better if the Swiss national team players played here and not abroad," he explained.
Even without the likes of Xherdan Shaqiri and Granit Xhaka in the Swiss Super League, the challenge of giving Basel a run for their money is "very appealing" for Gattuso. "I'm not done yet and I'm eager to show everyone that," he added. "But most of all I'm here to beat Basel."
He will have the chance to do that on 4 August, but first his side visit 27-time champions Grasshopper-Club on Sunday.
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