What makes a player give it all for his team? Ask any successful coach and the answer is simply “a happy bunch of players.” Just like in any corporate environment, satisfaction of individual players plays a major role in the team scaling greater heights. And in any successful team, some are not quite content with the success. Some move on in search of newer challenges, some demand a better payslip for their contributions to the club and some are not happy with the role they are playing. Xherdan Shaqiri falls into the third category. The Swiss international is clearly not happy at Allianz Arena. It has been evident over the past few months. Both Guardiola and Bayern management expect Shaqiri to stay at the club but limited playing time is bound to make a quality player like him restless. It is worth questioning whether Bayern were right in signing him two years ago.
Why was Shaqiri needed at Bayern?
After falling at the final hurdle in all competitions, Bayern needed some fine tuning rather than an overhaul after the 2011-12 season. On the wings, Robben and Ribery were blighted by injuries. Both of them were nearing their thirties. To address this issue Bayern needed a player who could play on both the wings and also learn from the experienced duo. So with an eye on the future, Bayern made a move for Shaqiri, who was being dubbed as ‘The Alpine Messi’ at FC Basel. The transfer paid dividends for Bayern as Shaqiri played the role of an able substitute, appearing 26 times that season, as Bayern buried all the ghosts of the past winning the unprecedented treble. Jupp Heynckes and Bayern management were hailed by the pundits for their smart transfer policy. After arriving in the summer of 2012, Shaqiri quoted that he didn’t think twice about joining the Bavarian gaints. But he slowly started to realize that the ground was changing around him.
Time changes quickly in football
For any player winning a treble in his first season at such a big club only indicates a bright future at that club. Mario Mandzukic dethroned Mario Gomez as the main striker who later moved to Florentina in the summer of 2013. Javi Martinez’s capture proved to be the signing of the season and forced Luiz Gustavo to move away from the Allianz Arena. But in the wing department it was a different story. Franck Ribery made it to the Ballon D’or shortlist with his career best performance and Arjen Robben’s performances that season made him the Benjamin Button of football, becoming faster and more unplayable with advancing age.
The shock transfer of Mario Gotze from arch-rivals Dortmund only indicated that Shaqiri will face stiffer competition for places next season. But the Swiss international decided to stay at the club where he was seen as the heir to Ribery and Robben.
Guardiola’s tactics didn’t include Shaqiri
In the next season the change in management only meant that the club would employ a fresh approach to their game. Unlike Heynckes’ counter attacking football, Guardiola is a manager who prefers to deploy many creative players around a goal scoring forward just as he did at Barcelona building a creative midfield around Messi. Thomas Muller’s adaptabliity and remarkable consistency for the club narrowed Shaqiri’s chances. Gotze’s ability to create chances for his team mates as well as his ability to play as winger and an attacking midfielder only meant that the more direct Shaqiri was not a major part of Guardiola’s plans.
Chances dried up for the winger as he played only 17 games under Guardiola, nine fewer than under Heynckes. Just 10 of those were starts and those too came when the regulars were either injured or lacked match fitness. Injuries played their part making it even more difficult for Shaqiri to break into the starting 11. By the end of the season the forward was unhappy with his playing time. Like his fellow attacker Mario Mandzukic who left for Atletico Madrid, Shaqiri wanted a transfer away from the Allianz Arena.
The 23 year old even hinted that he was open for a move to Serie A when he quoted that Juventus were on par with Die Roten. He was heavily linked to Liverpool, Juventus along with other Serie A clubs like Roma and Inter Milan. Liverpool were willing to payout 19 million Euros on his buyout clause before the World Cup. The attacker himself revealed about the bid recently but also revealed that Bayern turned down the offer. This clearly shows that Bayern will not let go of the Kosovo born winger until they find his replacement despite having such an abundance of fire power in their ranks.
Shaqiri seems to have fallen farther down the pecking order this season not because he lacks quality. His displays at the World Cup, which includes a brilliant hat trick against Honduras, shows that he is one of the top young talents in Europe. Its just that the coach does not consider him vital to his plans. Only 406 minutes played in 12 games this season, among which only 4 were starts, clearly proves this fact.
Which club would be best?
Bayern’s honorary president Franz Beckenbauer recently confirmed that the club are willing to cash in on the winger should a club bid for him in the mid-season window. There are many suitors for the Swiss’ talent. Among German clubs, Schalke have been rumoured to be keen on bringing the attacker to Veltins Arena. But the club’s sporting director Horst Heldt recently stated that they will not be bidding for Shaqiri. Liverpool, considering their previous failed attempt, would likely bid for him again if Bayern let him leave him in the January transfer window. Given the type of crisis Liverpool are facing now with their striking options, Shaqiri could be a viable option for them. With multiple injuries to star striker Daniel Sturridge and undermining performances from Ricky Lambert, Mario Balotelli and Fabio Borini, the Merseysiders really need a quality striker upfront. Shaqiri has the qualities of a striker should Brendan Rodgers mould him just like he transformed Sturridge last season.
Juventus is the best option for Shaqiri if he wishes to ply his trade in Serie A. Just like Carlos Tevez and former Real Madrid forward Alvaro Morata, Shaqiri could get regular first team action under Massimiliano Allegri. After having struggled in the shadow of Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery, the Turin club can really help Shaqiri to showcase his skills. Inter Milan wouldn’t be good for him as the San Siro club are still a long way to return back to their glory days.
Robben faced similar problems when he was at Real Madrid and many thought he was wrong to sign for Bayern in 2009. But five years later he proved all the doubters wrong by playing a major role in establishing Bayern as one of the Europe’s superpowers. Likewise, with all the talent and best years of football yet to be played, Shaqiri will be open to choose the right club and make the move of his career when the transfer window opens.
This is a guest post written for TheHardTackle by Samarnath.