November 6, 2018

Player Feature: Liverpool’s Balkan child Xherdan Shaqiri

The Kosovar Eagle

Full Name: Xherdan Shaqiri

Birth Date: 10 October 1991

Place of Birth: Yugoslavia

Playing Years: 1999 to present

Position(s): Winger

Football Club (Current): Liverpool


Swiss Golden Player Award “SFAP Golden Player”: 2012

Swiss Golden Player Award “Best Young Player”: 2012

DFB-Pokal top goalscorer: 2012–13

DFB-Pokal top assist provider: 2012–13

Formative Years

Xherdan Shaqiri is a player whose life outside the field is just as interesting as inside it. Shaqiri is an ethnic Kosovar Albanian born in the former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and what is now Kosovo. He left his homeland with his parents for Switzerland to find opportunities in the new country. He spent his childhood in the Basel-County in relative poverty. His father, who could not speak Swiss German, started out in the new land washing dishes in a restaurant, eventually finding a job in construction. His mother, on the other hand, worked as a cleaner in office spaces. Despite being in poverty themselves, Shaqiri’s parents still send much of their money to relatives left in Kosovo.

Shaqiri is a big fan of football in his childhood. He once recounted how he spends the rest of the day after school playing football with fellow immigrant children. He also admitted to be a huge fan of Cristiano Ronaldo whom he described as an athlete who played ‘like magic.’

Shaqiri’s first club is his hometown’s own SV Augst. When he was 14, he became part of FC Basel’s youth program, and had the chance to play in the Nike Cup in Prague, where he was recognized as the best player in the tour. His display in the said cup caught the attention of other clubs, but he remained in Basel and eventually secured his club membership with a professional contract in January 2009. He made his debut in the 2009-10 season of Swiss Super League in one match against FC St. Galen. He made his first goal for the club in the same season in a 4-1 victory over Neuchâtel Xamax. By the end of the season, he won the Swiss Double with the club, including the League title. In the following season, he helped Basil secure another Double and League title, as well as the Swiss Cup.

Professional and International Career

In February 2012, Shaqiri left Basel for Bayern Munich for the 2012-13 season of Bundesliga with a transfer fee of €11.6 million. The club also paid him around €2 million per season. By July, he made his debut with a 1-0 win in a friendly with Bavarian SpVgg Unterhaching. He helped the team secure a place in the 2012-13 UEFA Champions League. By the end of the season, Shaqiri was named the most decorated Swiss football player of all time with his 13 medals by the age of 22.

In January 2015, he signed for the Italian club Inter Milan for a €15 million transfer fee. He made his Coppa Italia debut for the team with a 2-1 win over Sampdoria. He eventually broke into Serie A scoring a goal in their 4-1 win against Atalanta. He also helped Inter secure a 3-3 draw with Celtic in 2014-15 UEFA Europa League.

Shaqiri then left Inter for Stoke City by the end of the Europa League season for a €14.5 million transfer fee. He immediately made his club debut in a 1-1 draw with Norwich City. In the 2015-16 season of Premier League, he made a 20-yard strike securing Stoke City victory in a match with Newcastle United. He repeated such a strike the following season against Middlesbrough. Shaqiri made more long-range goals in the season securing victories for the team, and he was since known for such strikes. In his next and last Premier League in Stoke City, despite helping the team win numerous matches throughout the season, he sparked a controversy regarding his questioning of his fellow teammates’ quality of work.

Shaqiri eventually Stoke City for fellow Premier League club Liverpool with a £13.5 million release clause. He decorated his debut in a team with an aesthetically pleasing bicycle kick in a friendly against Manchester United, securing a 4-1 win for Liverpool. His excellent performance for the League season nominated him Man of the Match by BBC Sport.

Since his youth career, Shaqiri also played for Switzerland’s national team and played for the 2014 and 2018 FIFA World Cups. He said that his work for the national team is an act of gratitude towards the country for giving his family ‘everything.’ He, however, became controversial when he put flags of Switzerland, Albania, and Kosovo on his shoes during a match against Albania. He added more fuel to this controversy when he celebrated goals in a match against Serbia with an eagle gesture, a symbol of ethnic Albanians. FIFA dismissed this act as an “unsporting behaviour contrary to the principles of fair-play” and was fined 10,000 Swiss francs.

Furthermore, Shaqiri’s physical frame and mastery of his form had earned him the name ‘Alpine Messi’. His aesthetically pleasing kicks have added more color to this moniker.

By @EliaasMJ

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