One 2 Watch – Xherdan Shaqiri

by Kevin Coleman

Xherdan Shaqiri | FC Basel
19 | Switzerland | Left Wing

The FC Basel wing wizard made only one, very brief appearance during this summer’s World Cup in South Africa – in Switzerland’s final group game against eliminated Honduras. Switzerland needed a win in this game, and hoping Chile lost in the simultaneous match-up against Spain – would qualify for the final sixteen of the World Cup.

Ottmar Hitzfeld had already masterminded an opening game win against the European Champions and eventual winners Spain, but a sluggish, uncreative tie against battling Honduras thwarted their chances of progressing (Chile, incidentally, lost 2-1). With just over ten minutes to go, Hitzfeld turned to a curiously named 18-year-old who had been making soundwaves in his home league to spark something special that could break down the Honduran defence.

Switzerland could only a manage a goalless draw that evening, but it was only the first sight of many of this talented youngster who had moved to Switzerland from Yugoslavia at a young age and took up football at his local club SV Augst, before being snatched up by the Basel youth team, which recently kick-started the careers of Hakan Yakin, Gökhan Inler and, er, the Degen twins. While in the FC Basel youth system, his earliest claim to fame was being named the U15 Nike Cup 2007 player of the tournament. From there, the transfer rumours began to rear their head but Xherdan, who has played nineteen times and scored eight goals for the Basel second side, decided to stay faithful to the Swiss club and eventually signed a professional contract in 2009 which would keep him at the club until January 2011.

Shaqiri may sound familiar to some English national supporters. In Switzerland’s Euro 2012 qualifying campaign, the Basel livewire opened up his international goal account with a left footed scorcher past Joe Hart (below). Switzerland only have three points after three games however in their qualifying group, and with Montenegro impressing with ten points after four games, and England also unbeaten, Hitzfeld’s side are looking unlikely that they can repeat their World Cup qualification.

Shaqiri has shown fantastic loyalty to FC Basel by deciding to stay in the Swiss league, and has been an influential part of their Swiss Super League and Swiss Cup double last season, scoring six goals and providing five assists. His days at FC Basel may be numbered however, with his contract almost up and a move abroad, possibly to the Bundesliga, looking very attractive.

The tricky winger is short in size (5’7″), but his stocky physicality belies his height. Xherdan shares a similar low-centre-of-gravity and power running style to Arsenal and Russian attacker Andrei Arshavin, who is also five foot seven. He has phenomenal dribbling skills, has impressive footballing technique and can take on ill-starred defences at break-neck speed. Just like the Russian midfielder, Shaqiri has superb control of the football, with either foot, and while running at great pace. His all actions displays on either flank makes him the ultimate danger to opposition defences. Shaqiri has great versatility, occasionally operating at full back but more commonly switching between the left and right of midfield (his goal against England came from deep on the right).

Shaqiri is a major dual threat on either flank. Primarily left footed, he’s equally adaptable to the right hand side. Whether he’s looking for the by-line, swinging in a deep cross or moving in-field to set up a shot on goal, he’s always a danger. The comparison to the little Russian might not be too far off, both enjoy taking long shots on either foot, but share a phenomenal agility and trickery to take on defenders and cause havoc in wide areas. His two-footedness makes him difficult to contain, and this added dimension gives his game an unpredictability that opposition defenders could do without.

Xhedran Shaqiri has been touted as the future of Swiss football. At only nineteen, the FC Basel winger has a long and successful future ahead of him both internationally and at club level. Undoubtedly, there will be many clubs from around Europe keen to invest in his services – and in return will get a hard working, loyal and fearless talent who can make the difference in any game. Wherever he goes, you can be sure nothing less than 100% will be given from the youngster. His multi-dimensional qualities and ability to switch flanks will raise his stock even more.

An exceptional talent technically, with all the skills and qualities to stand out in many of the world’s big teams, as well as the hard-working, ground attributes that can develop him into a great player. To say the least, Shaqiri is One to Watch.

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