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Back in the late 90′s, Walter Baseggio was an Anderlecht player with a glorious career ahead of him. Chris Boothroyd chronicles the tale from management game must-buy to second tier obscurity
At the turn of the century Belgium had a potential new Enzo Scifo waiting in the wings to take the world by storm. He had learnt from, and played alongside the great man. His name was Walter Baseggio. So ten years later, what happened to him, and why haven’t we heard more about him?
Baseggio made his debut aged seventeen for RSC Anderlecht against Standard Liege and scored. In the subsequent years he won the Belgian Young Professional Footballer of the Year Award at the culmination of both 1998/99 and 1999/2000 seasons, and then took home the Belgian Professional Football of the Year Award a year later. He had impressed for Anderlecht domestically, and had a chance to showcase his talent in the 2000/2001 Champions League campaign. He was an established Beligan international, seemingly had the world at his feet aged 23, and a big money move abroad would surely be just around the corner. But it never happened.
Baseggio missed the 2002 World Cup, just like he had missed the European Championships two years earlier due to injury. From that year on, the man who had been destined to take over from Scifo as the next star of Belgian football started to slowly fall out of choice at club level with Anderlecht, and then off the radar all together as moves to Treviso, Mouscron and finally AFC failed to bring around any resurgence or renaissance in his career.Part of the problem of Walter Baseggio’s was obviously that he received injuries at unfortunate times. In this day and age a good showing in a continental or world tournament can secure an illustrious transfer, and this opportunity was never presented to him. He was coming off a number of strong seasons in the Belgian top flight as part of a successful Anderlecht team assembled by Aime Anthuenis, and here we find another part of the Baseggio puzzle; he was part of a very strong side.
Members of this Anderlecht squad moved away from Belgium and watched their careers falter. Tomasz Radzinski was unconvincing in the Premier League for Everton, before being disappointing for Fulham, influential winger Bart Goor showcased his promise at Hertha Berlin before falling out with everybody at Feyenoord. While the behemoth Jan Koller can be called a success due to his time at Borussia Dortmund, his performances for Monaco left something to be desired.
With influential teammates leaving, Baseggio remained and watched as the team went under somewhat of a rebuilding process, which then coach Hugo Broos oversaw. Broos brought back midfielder Par Zetterberg and decided neither Baseggio and Zetterberg could play together, and stuck with the Swede. In February 2005 Broos was fired and Franky Vercauteren was promoted from assistant manager, but yet again Baseggio found himself the perennial substitute. He’d gone from midfield figurehead, to bit part player in a number of short years.
Halfway through the 2005/2006 season Baseggio was transferred to then Serie A strugglers Treviso, who subsequently were relegated, and in January 2007 he found himself back at Anderlecht and back on the bench. Though he picked up a league winners medal, he was now evidently a fringe player at best and it was not long before he was on the move again, this time to R.E Mouscron.
Baseggio’s time at Mouscron was overshadowed by the midfielder finding out that he was suffering from thyroid cancer. Walter spent the majority of the summer of 2009 undergoing treatment and rehabilitation and received the all clear in September. By mid-October Baseggio had started training again with Les Hurlus and had gone on record saying he ‘want[ed] to become the Lance Armstrong of football’. Beseggio made his return to competitive action in November and showed no signs that his illness had a negative effect on his talents; he scored twice from set piece situations on his comeback. The next month Mouscron were declared bankrupt, leaving him without a club just months after he had returned to playing football. He would eventually sign a contract with Tubize in May 2010.
It seems that bad luck has plagued Walter Baseggio’s career, with him picking up injuries at inopportune times. These setbacks came off the heels of strong seasons for Anderlecht and forced him out of plying his trade on a worldwide stage. He also suffered due to the inevitable pressure which had been placed upon his shoulders when Enzo Scifo retired from football. Baseggio inherited Scifo’s position not just within the Anderlecht side, but also in the Belgian national team, and this expectation was arguably too much for any man to bear, let alone flourish under. And just when he was settling in playing for Mouscron, it was discovered that he was suffering with cancer, putting his career on hold.
There is no denying that he had the talent and potential to become a great player of the modern age. Whilst he flourished in his native Belgium it must be remembered that he was part of a great squad and had learnt from the great Scifo. If he had been at Standard Liege at the same time would he have stood out as much as he did while he was based in Brussels? I’m not convinced he would have, he was at the right club at the right time in Anderlecht.
His injuries sadly hampered his ability to showcase himself on the world stage, and he overstayed his glory period at the club and did not move on at the right time whilst his peers moved abroad. Anderlecht then failed to win the league title in both 2002 and 2003 and the team was rebuilt however not around Baseggio, but around other members of the team and when he finally left Belgium, it was five years too late. His time had passed and his potential would always remain, sadly, unfulfilled leaving him to play in relegation dogfights instead of championship challenging teams.
Walter Baseggio currently plays for AFC Tubize in the Endrunde EXQI League (Belgian Second Tier).