What’s Shaqiri’s problem at Liverpool?
When Liverpool signed Xherdan Shaqiri in summer 2018, it was seen as a smart piece of transfer business but the forward remains an enigma.
Clearly talented and an international stalwart for Switzerland, Shaqiri has, more often than not, had to settle for a place on the subs’ bench with Reds fans only able to see fleeting glimpses of what he can offer.
Plenty of observers are asking why the former Inter Milan, Bayern Munich and Basel man is getting so few chances under Jurgen Klopp at Anfield because, on the surface at least, he seems to be doing little wrong.
As expected, he had to wait for his chance last season but when he did get a regular run of games throughout the autumn and winter, he was reliably consistent and proved to be a matchwinner in big matches. Goals against Cardiff, Fulham, Burnley and a brace against arch-rivals Manchester United – after coming off the bench to turn the fixture in a 3-1 win – meant he was quickly a favourite on The Kop.
However, he didn’t kick on and, mysteriously, was back out of the side as quickly as he was in it despite no reports of injury. Further brief cameo appearances later in the season also underlined his quality, though, and he produced two crucial assists in the tense run-in against Newcastle and Barcelona, the latter coming in the famous Champions League comeback, to endear himself further to the Liverpool fans.
A summer hamstring strain and a further minor leg injury meant he didn’t return to pre-season training in top shape but the 27-year-old has been fully fit for well over a month yet is still being overlooked as the Merseysiders have made a good start to the season.
So why does Klopp seem so reluctant not to turn to the experienced forward, who can operate in a variety of positions?
On the face of it, it’s unclear but there is a nagging feeling Shaqiri neglects the defensive side of his game – so key to the way Klopp’s teams operate – and it looks like the German coach struggles to trust his £13million signing to do the dirty work.
Shaqiri has played a miniscule 25 minutes of first-team football in all competitions so far in 2019-20, having to settle for some late introductions in games when they’ve mostly already been won.
His comments in the past week that he feels “a little downbeat” at a lack of action underline what will be an obvious private frustration but he may be able to take some comfort from the fact he has actually been included in every one of Klopp’s matchday squads so far this season – even if he has only come on four times in total.
There’s no doubt, like during last winter, he will get some opportunities with the games coming at a pace over the coming months but Shaqiri will have to take his chances and then hope he does enough to convince Klopp he is worth a regular place in his side.
Because, if not, all parties could end up one day looking back on his Liverpool career with plenty of regret.
Aidan Perkins is a senior journalist that specialises in football stories. Aidan, a Liverpool fan, also has a broad knowledge of several other sports.