Barnetta nearly ready to go home to Switzerland
What had been speculated for weeks was made official Tuesday morning, in an odd twist to the Philadelphia Union’s quest for the playoffs.
The club announced that midfielder Tranquillo Barnetta will return to FC St. Gallen in Switzerland at the end of the season, ending a year-and-a-half stint with the club.
Barnetta, who joined the Union in Aug. 2015, has played 37 matches for the Union, scoring six goals and seven assists. He will remain with the club for the duration of the season and the postseason, pending qualification.
“The entire soccer community here was so welcoming, and I’m so thankful to everyone at Philadelphia Union for making me feel so appreciated,” Barnetta said in a club statement. “Playing in front of my friends and family and making plans for life at the end of my career where I want to live is a force I can’t resist.”
The 31-year-old Swiss midfielder started his career at St. Gallen before signing with German club Bayer Leverkusen just after his 19th birthday. He played two seasons in St. Gallen’s first team prior to the move to the German giants.
Barnetta, who joined the Union after his contract with Schalke expired last summer, told Swiss media two weeks ago that he wanted to return to his home club in a position to contribute.
Barnetta has been capped 75 times by the Swiss national team, playing in three World Cups. His acquisition last year presaged the kind of shrewd moves made by Union Sporting Director Earnie Stewart and his administration. Barnetta has served as a team captain for long stretches and adapted admirably to the physicality of MLS.
“Tranquillo has been a key piece in what we’re trying to build here in Philadelphia, but we appreciate his decision to return to Switzerland,” Stewart said. “We look forward to continuing to push for the postseason.”