Tranquillo Barnetta: Swiss Superstar
South Africa might be the stage on which Tranquillo Barnetta fulfills his potential.
Born: May 22, 1985 in St. Gallen, Switzerland
Clubs Played for: Barnetta's youth was spent between with his hometown's amateur side, FC Rotmonten St. Gallen, from 1991 to 1996, and professional side, St. Gallen, from 1996 to 2002. Barnetta would make more than 60 professional appearances for St. Gallen before Bundesliga powerhouse Bayer Leverkusen signed him to a multi-year deal.
International career: Barnetta has been a lauded as Switzerland's golden child since he began playing for his country as a teenager. He has made 41 appearances for Switzerland since 2004, and although he has had to fight for his place in Bayer Leverkusen's starting lineup Barnetta's place in the Swiss midfield is secure.
Why is he so special? Although he isn't very tall, Barnetta covers a lot of ground with long, thoroughbred strides and has a penchant for lobbing a cross or striking a shot while running with the ball at his feet. Even though he spends much of his time marauding up the right side, Bernetta can heed caution and take on a defensive role when required.
His most famous moment: Barnetta scored a Switzerland's second goal in a 2-0 win over Togo in the 2006 World Cup. With the game coming to a close, Mauro Lustrinelli picked up the ball outside of Togo's area and cut inside one defender before thrusting the ball to Barnetta, who slammed the rolling ball 18 yards past Togo goalkeeper Kossi Agassa.
He said it: "It's great that Switzerland have managed to qualify again. Playing at four major international tournaments in a row is some achievement."
What they're saying about him: "He is a very talented player, very quick dribbles, vertical. I would lose him unwillingly." — Jupp Heynckes, Bayer Leverkusen manager
Here is an interesting fact: Since Toni Kroos, on loan from Bayern Munich, has established himself in Bayer Leverkusen's midfield Barnetta has had trouble holding onto his starting position. Heynckes said he wants to keep Barnetta but rumours persist that Arsène Wenger, a longtime admirer of Barnetta, is ready to bring the midfielder to Arsenal.