Xherdan Shaqiri is set to be Liverpool’s third new arrival and second signing of the summer following the completion of his move from Stoke City in a deal worth around £13M. He is, no matter who you ask, at least a good value signing and upgrade on the club’s current options on the wing not named Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mané. Beyond that, it’s fair to say there’s some disagreement. We let Tito and Noel both dig into the scouting report, along the way explaining why this signing is either a great one or just a smart one.
DOB: 10/10/91 (26 years old) | Height: 5’7” (169cm)
2017/18: 38 appearances | 8 goals | 7 assists
Strengths (Tito): While some in the Liverpool fanbase might say Shaqiri’s greatest strength is his bargain price tag, one somehow lower than the fee Jordan Ibe was sold for, the Swiss attacker does in fact bring a number of needed attributes to the table.
One key feature is his long-range striking. Since arriving in the Premier League in 2015, only Philippe Coutinho and Manchester City’s Kevin De Bruyne have scored more goals from outside the box. For all their abilities, few in the current Liverpool side possess this key attribute. A powerful left foot that can come on late against tiring legs and threaten from range against sides that sit deep is a skill set that was missed when Liverpool were chasing the game last season, especially following the January departure of Coutinho.
Another plus is the 26-year-old’s impressive tendency towards end product. With the preseason sales of Marko Arnautovic and Bojan leaving Shaqiri as Stoke’s sole source of both creativity and goals, it can’t be ignored that he was Stoke’s one true attacking threat, and one could almost count the nominal winger’s 15 goal contributions last season twice for the degree of difficulty required to get such a woeful Stoke side to occasionally put the ball in the back of the other team’s net.
Going back a bit further in his career shows he also has excelled in the super sub role, when he hasn’t been asked to carry the entire team, somehow consistently averaging a goal every 90 to 100 minutes while stuck behind the likes of Arjen Robben, Franck Ribery, and Thomas Muller at Bayern Munich between 2012-13 and 2014-15.
These two features, his long-range striking and his end product numbers, along with that self belief that made him think he could displace Arjen Robben, make it easy to see why Shaqiri has “super sub” written all over him, and he’d be an excellent buy at twice the price.
Weaknesses (Noel): Despite being a winger with a bit of a reputation for pace, Shaqiri isn’t actually as fast as people tend to think, at least not over longer distances. His short-burst acceleration isn’t anything to sniff at, but he’s not a player who’s going to stretch a high line or offer the kind of vertical threat as the two players he’ll be backing up—in fact, while many are going to be tempted to compare him to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain given both arrived at the club with question marks looking to revive their careers, Shaqiri doesn’t have the pace to keep up with the former Arsenal man in a race.
He also, at least based on what was seen of him in his time at Stoke, doesn’t have Oxlade-Chamberlain’s work-rate and innate competitive drive—while many fans were fond following his signing of a clip of Oxlade-Chamberain frustrated, gesturing at his Arsenal teammates when they refused to press with him, the Shaqiri seen at Stoke was the sort of player he would have been gesturing at in frustration.
Some of that of course might be down to the situation he found himself in, from one of Europe’s top young prospects to mired in a relegation battle as part of an awful side, but in all the talk of how Klopp tends to get the best out of players it’s worth remembering Shaqiri isn’t some promising, misused prospect—he’s into what should be his best years, at a time when most attacking players are considered the final product.
And for all the promise Shaqiri once had and that so many people still have in the back of their minds when they think of him, he’s a player who showed an awful lot less fight and determination in his three years at Stoke than he will need to show to succeed in any capacity with Liverpool. Maybe Klopp can fix him, maybe having better players around him will bring out his best, and maybe a last best chance at a big club will motivate him. But all of that is a very fair—and big—question mark.
Summary (Tito): Shaqiri has experienced quite a lot in his short career. He’s been the main man as well as super sub; he’s excelled for his country and ridden the bench. Now, in the prime of his career, he wants to win trophies.
The lack of any concerted interest in attacking alternatives such as Malcolm and Christian Pulisic so desired by Liverpool supporters seems proof that the Swiss was identified early as the perfect option to rotate with the front three next season, and if Jürgen Klopp believes he has figured out what cons of Shaqiri’s can be chalked up to circumstance, environment, and bad luck, that’s a reason to hope for the best.
The underlying ability and maybe even requisite character is there, despite the canceling effect hasty career choices have had on its trajectory. The diminutive winger possess the sort self-belief that saw him try work his way into the likes of Bayern and Inter before he was ready, and while many Reds and Potters fans will knock his attitude, Shaqiri is nevertheless older and wiser than he was when he made those choices—and would appear to have also passed the famous Klopp personality requirement.
For a player who ticks this many boxes and for this low a price, there’s no question this is an outstanding transfer.
Summary(Noel): There are good reasons to doubt Shaqiri will turn out to be a signing who can make a major difference for Liverpool, and you’d have to go back eight years to his time at Basel to find the player everyone hopes he can now, rather belatedly, become at Anfield.
For the fee, though, it’s more than worth the gamble—even if joining up with Klopp doesn’t get the best out of him, he stands a marked improvement on any wing options Liverpool currently have to bring off the bench. He may not be as fast as people think, and he may not be the young player with so much promise who made the switch to Bayern, but he’s cheap and he’ll improve the squad.
And, once upon a time, he was that player who made the switch to Bayern Munich with the football world convinced he was destined for greatness. It’s a long shot, certainly, but just maybe that talented young player is in there somewhere and it’s not too late for Xherdan Shaqiri to come good on his promise.