As announced Friday afternoon, experienced football executive Georg Heitz has been named Chicago Fire FC's new Sporting Director ahead of the 2020 season.
Heitz, 50, boasts an impressive resume following time spent at Swiss Super League giants FC Basel 1893, where he served as Sporting Director and Board Member from 2009-2017, overseeing the first team and academy, player transfers and contracts, and the recruitment of all players, coaches, scouts, and the technical and medical staffs.
As he prepares for his new role in Chicago, get to know Heitz with five fast facts about his career to-date:
Under Heitz’s leadership, FC Basel won eight of the club's 20 all-time Swiss championships, claiming all eight consecutively from 2010 to 2017. In addition, Basel raised three Swiss Cup trophies (2010, 2012, 2017), of which they've won 13 since the competition began in 1925.
FC Basel’s academy system has long been a leader in producing domestic talent for the Swiss national team, a trend that continued under Heitz’s watch. A number of Swiss regulars -- including midfielders Granit Xhaka (Arsenal) and Zherdan Shaqiri (Liverpool), forward Breel Embolo (Borussia Mönchengladbach) and starting goalkeeper Yann Sommer (Borussia Mönchengladbach) -- spent time in the Basel youth setup under Heitz, and helped the country win UEFA Euro 2020 Qualifying Group D this year to punch their ticket to next summer’s tournament.
Among the highest profile players Heitz has worked with, reigning African Player of the Year and two-time Premier League Golden Boot winner Mohamed Salah began his European career at FC Basel prior to moves to Chelsea and Roma and his ultimate rise to international stardom at Liverpool.
According to an interview with Liverpool daily newspaper Echo in December of 2017, Heitz first discovered Salah in Colombia at the 2011 Under-20 FIFA World Cup, where Salah was representing his native Egypt as a 19-year-old. While continuing to monitor Salah following the tournament, Heitz and his team made the decision to sign him from Egypt’s El Mokawloon after Salah scored twice for the Egyptian Olympic team in the second half of a friendly against Basel in March of 2012. His signature was announced less than a month later.
Heitz has experience working with MLS in the transfer market, having been a part of the deal to send forward Shkëlzen Gashi to the Colorado Rapids on a Designated Player deal in February of 2016. Gashi had scored 25 goals in 41 appearances for Basel from 2014-16, and went on to appear 68 times for the Rapids.
During Heitz’s tenure, FC Basel advanced to the UEFA Champions League six times. On two occasions, Basel made it to the competition’s Round of 16, where they ultimately fell to German giants Bayern Munich (2012) and Portugal’s FC Porto (2015).
In the UEFA Europa League, FC Basel advanced deep into the competition on several occasions, including a semifinal appearance against Premier League side Chelsea in 2013.