On the Spot: Xherdan Shaqiri

Every week at The Center Circle, we are highlighting a different player in a feature we call “On the Spot”. We’ll take a look at superstars, underrated gems, aging veterans, and young unknowns who should be known. We’ll peruse their club and international careers, taking note of their teams, statistics, and highlight reels. We’ll illuminate their strengths and weaknesses and comment on their personalities and reputations. It will be some fun. If there is anyone you want to see “On the Spot”, feel free to comment below.

Xherdan Shaqiri

Shaqiri, Stoke winger

Image: PA

One of the most exciting new additions to the Premier League last summer had to Xherdan Shaqiri. The Swiss playmaker has seemingly played in every major European competition, and fans at the Britannia Stadium have quickly welcomed him to England. At just 24 years old, Shaqiri still has a bright career in front of him, but he already has the experience of a seasoned veteran.

Swiss Start

Before the big moves to Germany, Italy and England, Xherdan Shaqiri was plying his trade in FC Basel’s youth academy. His performances on the youth level reportedly attracted interest from bigger clubs around the continent, but the young winger decided to stay in Switzerland. Shaqiri quickly moved through Basel’s lower ranks and eventually earned his first team debut in 2009 at the age of just 17.

The teenager’s first season with the first team came with a bit of a learning curve as he failed to register a single goal or assist until November. After spending the majority of the first half of the season as a substitute, Shaqiri finally nudged his way into Thorsten Fink’s starting 11. His final 17 appearances of the season all came as a starter and he also managed to score another three goals along the way. Shaqiri’s first professional season also came with a bit of silverware as Basel claimed a league title as well as the Swiss Cup.

Shaqiri with FC Basel

Image: KEYSTONE/Georgios Kefalas)

In his second year with the first team, Shaqiri’s role continued to increase. The winger would start 25 of a possible 36 league matches, while also starting in all six of the team’s Champions League fixtures. The increased playing time saw the teenager record a career-high six goals in all competitions. For the second time in as many years, Shaqiri helped Basel claim another league title that automatically qualified them for another year in the Champions League.

2011/12 would prove to be Shaqiri’s final, and also most fruitful season in Switzerland. Now three years into his professional career, the winger started to show signs that he could grow into a potential world-beater at a bigger club. The nickname of the “Alpine Messi” only served to increase his reputation around the world. It was on the Champions League stage that he truly announced himself that season as he helped his side knock out perennial power Manchester United in the group stages.

Moving to Munich

Shaqiri’s impressive showing during the first half of the season was enough to convince a major European power to pull the trigger on a transfer. Despite interest from the likes of United, Arsenal and Real Madrid, the Swiss international agreed to a transfer to Bayern Munich in February of 2012. He finished out the season with Basel and helped them to a third straight league title and yet another Swiss Cup triumph.

Similarly to when he started at Basel, Shaqiri was eased into the Bayern setup in the 2012/13 campaign. His competitive debut came as a substitute in a cup tie against SSV Jahn Regensburg and he announced himself to the Bavarian fans with aplomb as he scored once and assisted twice in the 4-0 victory. Over the course of his first season at the Allianz Arena, Shaqiri would make 26 Bundesliga appearances equally split between the starting 11 and the substitutes’ bench. Through the league, Europe and the German Cup, the Basel product would find the net eight times, but truly began to establish himself as a provider, registering 12 assists.

His first year with Bayern also came with his biggest silverware haul to-date. The German giants dominated the league and won the title by an unbelievable 25-point margin. On top of the Bundesliga triumph, Bayern also won the German SuperCup, the DFB-Pokal and the Champions League. Things were looking bright for Shaqiri in Germany.

In his second year at the club, Shaqiri failed to force himself into the starting lineup. That year actually saw him appear just 17 times in the Bundesliga, with only ten of those coming as a starter. Despite the decrease in playing time, Shaqiri managed to improve on his goal tally from the previous season, finding the back of the net six times, but only assisting twice. That season did come with more silverware, however, as Bayern claimed another Bundesliga title (only by 19 points this time), another German Cup, the UEFA SuperCup and the FIFA Club World Cup.

Munich to Milan

shaqiri-inter

The 2014/15 season saw Shaqiri’s already limited role in the Bayern squad continue to decrease. Through the first half of the season, the Swiss winger would make just nine appearances in the Bundesliga and a move abroad seemed necessary to ensure consistent playing time. In the January transfer window, Inter Milan agreed a deal to sign Shaqiri for a reported fee of €15 million.

He would spend just half a season with Inter. Despite the large fee required for his services, Shaqiri was still unable to find consistent time as a starter as he made just 15 appearances (seven as a substitive) and scored a solitary league goal. At the conclusion of the Serie A season, it was once again time for Shaqiri to find a new home.

Stoke-alona

After an initial transfer fell through, Stoke City finally captured the signature of Shaqiri in August 2015. The English club brought in the Champions League winner for a reported fee of £12 million, and it became apparent that the days of long ball-playing Stoke were over. Shaqiri joined the likes of former Inter Milan man Marko Arnautovic, Bojan and Ibrahim Afellay to seemingly complete Mark Hughes’ revolution at the Britannia Stadium.

Despite a somewhat slow start to his life at Stoke, Shaqiri has been arguably one of the hottest players in the league as of late. Unbelievable performances against the likes of Manchester City and Everton have shown why he was considered the “Alpine Messi” all those years ago. His best goal of the season came in the match against Everton where his fantastic lob left Tim Howard helpless and has sparked an endless debate about whether or not it was intentional.

International Career

Swiss winger Shaqiri

Getty Images

Even though he is still just 24, Xherdan Shaqiri has already made 51 appearances for the Swiss National Team. In 2010, a teenage Shaqiri was able to make a substitute appearance during a World Cup match against Honduras. The Stoke winger has played a pivotal role in all of Switzerland’s major international qualifiers and was the star man during their 2014 World Cup campaign. Out of the four matches Switzerland played in that year’s tournament, Shaqiri was named man of the match twice, and even managed to score a hat trick against Honduras to close out the group stage.

Playing Style

Shaqiri isn’t the most physically imposing man on a field. At just 5 ft. 7, opposing center backs and a good chunk of other players in the Premier League dwarf him. Despite his diminutive size, the Swiss international possesses an unbelievable amount of strength that allows him to compete with even the biggest of competitors. In addition to this power on the ball, Shaqiri provides Stoke and Switzerland with a creative outlet on the wings and a cannon of a shot if given space. His mix of power and pace make him a tricky player to defend and Mark Hughes’ system at Stoke seems to get the absolute best out of the 24-year-old.

 

Tags: , , , , ,

About the author: Collin Carpio

 

I am currently a senior at the University of Missouri in the Journalism School. I have been an avid follower of Manchester United since 2006 and of course I support the Stars and Stripes. Due to my St. Louis high school allegiances, I am a big supporter of Brad Davis and Sporting KC in MLS.

 

Recent posts in EPL

 

No Comments

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

 

 

 
 
 
 
 

Post of the Week