Switzerland has bid farewell to another season. The 2009/10 campaign ended with three thrilling head-to-head clashes: Basel against Young Boys for the title; Thun meeting Lugano to contest promotion to the Super League; Bellinzona versus Lugano again in the promotion/relegation playoff. Basel, Thun and Bellinzona were the victorious sides, and now Switzerland can assess which stars really made an impact this season.
Here’s the eight most impressive players of the Swiss season:
Along with midfielder Benjamin Huggel, Marco Streller is the symbol of 2009/10 Super League champions Basel – both tough footballers for a tough team. While they may not play attractive football, and style and technique are not their most potent weapons, they do know how to win.
With 21 league goals, Streller has played a key role in helping Basel to their 13th league title. The striker’s performances were impressive all season long, despite having to operate with four different partners up front, from veteran Alexander Frei (who suffered a broken arm in February). Australian Scott Chipperfield, Argentine bench-warmer Federico Almerares, right through to Cameroon rising star Jacques Zoua. Last January Streller turned down a move to English side Fulham and Swiss coach Ottmar Hitzfeld convinced him to continue his international career after Euro 2008 – both of those decisions look to have paid dividends.
In the summer of 2008, Young Boys signed Seydou Doumbia from the Japanese second division. Two years later and a fine spell in the Super League has shown the signing of the Ivorian to have been a real masterstroke: In 2008/09 Doumbia netted 20 goals, and this year he scored 30.
Even the performances of Doumbia weren’t enough this season to help Young Boys bag a first title since 1986, as they missed out to Basel. While the Berne club dominated the Swiss league until the spring, then their form dropped, culminating in losing the last two games of the season. This missed opportunity should be quickly forgotten by Doumbia though, the striker is heading to Russia and CSKA Moscow after the World Cup.
Hakan Yakin is a name well known to Swiss football fans, and this past summer Luzern decided to bring the skilled midfielder back home from Qatar. It wasn’t easy to predict whether Yakin still possessed the motivation to perform at the highest level, but he soon proved he could make a difference, helping the club to qualification for the Europa League.
Yakin notched 10 goals and 10 assists, but perhaps more importantly, the midfielder played a vital role in helping to bring the best out of his team-mates. Beneficiaries were Romanian forward Christian Ianu (21 goals, having only scored six last season) and former Juventus starlet David Chiumiento (11 goals). In South Africa Yakin will line up for his second World Cup.
Brother Murat Yakin also enjoyed a great season, coaching Thun to win the Challenge League and return to Switzerland’s top flight.
20-year-old Ghana right back Samuel Inkoom has spent this season living up to comparisons with Brazil star Maicon and won’t quickly forget his 2009/10 campaign. This season Inkoom has won almost every single competition he has taken part in: With Ghana he won the 2009 FIFA Under-20 World Cup, finished as runner-up in the African Cup of Nations and bagged a league and cup double with Basel in Switzerland.
Inkoom moved to St. Jakob-Park from Kumasi Asante Kotoko in April 2009, and after a difficult start was praised for his positive personality. Basel’s chairman Gisela Oeri has gone on record as stating Inkoom is now the subject of heavy interest from many of Europe’s elite.
Gilles Yapi Yapo
The Ivory Coast man held the key to the Young Boys midfield this past season. A series of outstanding performances, both as a defensive midfielder and playmaker, helped the club to remain top of the league for much of the campaign. In January Yapi shocked Young Boys fans by announcing he had penned a three-year deal with rivals Basel. The imagined lack of commitment shown by key players such as Yapi and Doumbia was pinpointed by supporters as vital reason why Young Boys lost out on the title at the death.
Yapi arrived in Europe in 2001, following French coach Jean-Marc Guillou to Belgium and Beveren, where the club consisted mainly of players from the Ivory Coast. Despite much criticism, Beveren developed a host of great talents, and Yapi, alongside Gervinho, Yaya Toure, Romaric and Emmanuel Eboue, has proved to be one of the best.
Moreno Costanzo must rank as one of the best young players of the 2009/10 Super League season, with 14 goals to his name and a universally acknowledged impact, helping St. Gallen to a comfortable mid-table finish.
Last season, Costanzo had been vital too, with 14 goals in 24 games as his side clinched promotion to the top flight. In the Swiss second tier Costanzo has played as a forward, but upon promotion soon found himself deployed on the right side of midfield. Then St. Gallen coach Uli Forte had a brainwave and played the youngster as a classic number 10, just behind his two strikers – Costanzo never looked back.
Already in-demand, the 22-year-old with Italian roots seems ready to step up to a higher level. In fact, Costanzo is amongst the options Young Boys are considering to fill Gilles Yapi Yapo’s role.
The 22-year-old midfielder has been one of the few bright spots in Bellinzona’s horrible season. On loan from Italian side Lecce, Feltscher saved the day with a late winner in the promotion/relegation playoff against Lugano.
Bellinzona, with the smallest budget in the entire Super League, managed to survive the duel with Challenge League side Lugano, thanks in no small part to Feltscher. The Granata won 2-1 at home and drew 0-0 at the Cornaredo Stadium after 90 minutes of defensive football. With his dribbling ability and outstanding vision, Feltscher has given Bellinzona another season of top flight football.