Described as “The Alpine Messi”, Shaqiri has gone through a very interesting career. His path as a footballer started on Basel, his childhood club, and followed on Bayern Munich, a top-club on Europe. The curious thing is that, even though he is just 26 years old, Shaqiri’s career has gone through the drain and he is now facing an uncertain situation as his current club Stoke have just been relegated from the Premier League. The question is, how did this happen?
A Swiss favorite all around the world. His stunning bicycle goal against Poland in EURO 2016 shook the world and locked his name in the history of Switzerland’s national team for a very long time. Coming from a Kosovar-Albanian background, Shaqiri immigrated to Switzerland at a very young age and thus possesses three passports; Swiss, Albanian and Kosovar. His talent was developed in his home club Basel where he played in all the age groups until he finally signed his first professional contract on January 2nd 2009, with the intention of keeping him at the club until 2014. In his first season at Basel, Xherdan was very successful, having won both the League and Cup with Basel.
Shaqiri at his early days playing for Basel.
The following season saw him develop his position as a fluent winger, with a great passing and ball control that eventually made Ottmar Hitzfeld call him for the FIFA World Cup of 2010. Even though he did not feature on the competition, Shaqiri continued to be a crucial part of the Basel team that won the league the following season. However, the Swiss truly became world-wide known after a Champions League game against Manchester United, where he provided two assists in a 2:1 victory that made Basel go through the knockout phase, eliminating Manchester United.
His dominance in the game and confidence with the ball made him have offers from top clubs in Europe. All this proposals were hopeless as he had the mind on only one team, Bayern Munich. Basel confirmed in mid-season that he would be leaving for ‘Der FCB’ in summer of 2012, as he signed for a reported fee of 11.6 million. His name was now known around the world, were many fans expected him to push for a place in a team where Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery have been the main figures for the past 4 or 5 seasons. At the age of only 21, he proved to be a decent backup for the team and delivered whenever he was given the opportunity. Now, his number of goals and assists couldn’t be compared to his game level and the entertainment he gave to the fans. In his first season, he only managed to score 2 goals but his reputation as the best Swiss player was already on the way, him being predicted to be the guy that could lead Switzerland in the World Cup of 2014.
The following season saw Bayern Munich win the treble (2013), and even though Shaqiri did not play in the UCL final, he had a good season with his number of goals and assists doubled. The arrival of Pep Guardiola saw Xherdan fall out of order. Initially, Pep described him as a fantastic player with an incredible technique that could still have a future in Bayern, but things went wrong for Shaqiri. His level decayed and his statistics as well. Nevertheless, he managed to get another season and win the Bundesliga for the second time, but his lack of playing time had him being transferred to Inter for 15 million in January of 2015.
His arrival at Inter was seen as a massive hit for the club by the club favorites and critics. His speed and dynamic hunt upfront was exactly what Inter was lacking the past years. Shaqiri signed with the objective of helping the club to return to the Champions League, and under Roberto Mancini as head coach, the hopes were high. Shaq got his first goal in the Coppa Italia against Sampdoria and added a couple of assists the next games. He managed to score again against Celtic in a UEFA Europa League match. Sadly, that was all he could offer for a struggling Inter in his 4-month period at the club.
For inter he played 20 matches and just scored 3 goals.
He was told that he wasn’t needed anymore just a few months after being signed. During the summer of 2015, he was tracked by Liverpool and Stoke, (who had initially asked for him in January). Even though many wanted him at Liverpool, Shaqiri chose Stoke City as his next team. For neutral football fans, this whole scenario was seen as a downgrade, as he passed from being a Champions League winner to now joining a club that had never been to Europe competitions.
Shaqiri joined Stoke for a club record fee of 12 million pounds for a five-year deal. Many Swiss fans, including coach Petkovic, feared that he would find it difficult to show his game level in the Premier League where the conditions are much different compared to Switzerland or Germany. He adapted quite quickly and grabbed his first assist on his debut against Norwich City. He scored his first two goals against Everton in December, with one of them being a perfectly struck volley from outside of the box. He made 32 appearances and helped Stoke finish 9th that season, with high hopes coming for the season ahead.
Having come back from a memorable EURO 2016, Shaqiri started the season well with a perfectly executed free kick against Middlesbrough, which sadly was followed by an injury that took him out of the pitch for 6 weeks. He was yet the most important player for Stoke, and his two long-range goals against Hull City saw him become the first Stoke player to score two goals outside of the box. One of these goals made him win the Goal of the Season award. Stoke finished that season 13th. The 2017-2018 season proved to be the hardest one.
For Stoke he has already 14 goals and 14 assists.
With known names such as Crouch, Allen, Fletcher, Bojan and the inform Jack Butland, Stoke was regarded to at least finish mid-table after some poor seasons. A disappointing run of results saw Mark Hughes stepping out, having Paul Lambert with a tough task ahead. Shaqiri stunned the press when he said: “There is a lack of top players here, not even Ronaldinho could help us”. He did, however, finish the season as Stoke’s top scorer but could not avoid relegation which came from a humiliating 1:2 defeat at home against Crystal Palace, where Shaqiri had initially opened the scoring sheet.
Having proved to be a dominant player who wants to be a leader of his team, ‘Shaq’ is probably having a busy time on thinking where the next season will find him. His downgrade is known all around the world and the football fans expected much more from him after joining Bayern. Being 26 years old and playing in the second division in England is obviously not an option for top players. With the World Cup coming up in one-month time, Shaqiri has the opportunity to once more prove that he still has a lot to give and certainly deserves another chance at a top-level club.
He is expected to be Switzerland’s leader in a tough group alongside Brazil, Serbia and Costa Rica. As proven many times, the World Cup can always be a boost for future player’s careers. Shaqiri’s future is solely up to him and his performances. The world saw him as Stoke’s only hope for survival, but will they see him as Switzerland’s top talisman as well? That is for us to see, but until then Shaq has a lot to work for. The thought of another star falling short of expectations would be too much to handle for football fans, right?