An absolute rock in defence for Lecce in their return to Serie A, Federico Baschirotto has been one of the surprise revelations of the 2022/23 campaign.
The 26-year-old has developed a great partnership in the Lecce backline with former Barcelona defender and France international Samuel Umtiti, putting the club from the Apulia region in southern Italy in a position to easily avoid going back to Serie B.
There are two things in particular that stand out about Baschirotto: It has taken until the age of 26 for him to make his Serie A debut, and he possesses a notably muscular physique for a footballer.
Although Italian football has witnessed many late bloomers over the years, the 184 cm tall defender from the Veneto region is nevertheless leaving his own mark on Italian football.
From the lower leagues to Serie A
Baschirotto started his senior football career at Legnano, who were playing in Serie D in 2013/14. He was on his way to his first training session when his motorcycle collided with a car but he was not seriously injured. After impressing in just one game with the youth team, he was immediately called up to the senior squad.
Cremonese acquired him when they were in Serie C in 2014/15, but he remained in their youth team. During that time, he was living in a seminary and then graduated with a degree in accounting. It was around that time that he also started to go to the gym and work on his physique.
By the time July 2021 came around, Baschirotto had played most of his career so far in Italy’s lower divisions. Then Ascoli signed him from Serie C club Viterbese and he spent the 2021/22 season in Serie B.
His performances impressed Lecce sporting director Pantaleo Corvino and the Salentini paid just €350,000 in July 2022 to sign him.
Working out in the gym and on the family farm
Baschirotto places great focus on his physical workouts and he attributes that to his ability to adapt to Serie A football.
“I dedicate a lot of hours to my physique, I think it is the engine that allows us to work longer in football,” he told Chiamarsi Bomber.
“I became stronger, more agile, faster. Nowadays, football is definitely much more impactful physically and that helps me to be more explosive and faster on the pitch. It has helped me a lot over the years and I will continue to do so.”
If he had not succeeded as a footballer, Baschirotto would have been working on his family farm. Even when he has time away from football, he will help out his father and three brothers, also helping them during the COVID-19 pandemic when football was halted. It is evident that he has the physique to carry out such physical work.
One of Europe’s best in the air
The Lecce centre-back has emerged as a dominant figure in the air. He has scored three goals in the Serie A this season – all from headers – and he is rated as the second-best header of the ball in Europe’s top five leagues after Union Berlin defender Danilho Doekhi. Baschirotto is also leading Serie A for the most clearances with 102.
The Salentini are 13th in Serie A and they are 10 points above the relegation zone. They have the tightest defence out of all the teams in the bottom half, conceding just 26 goals in 23 matches.
Although the experience of Umtiti has helped the Lecce defence, Baschirotto has been outstanding in his own right.