When Liverpool signed Xherdan Shaqiri for just £13million in the summer of 2018 it was widely considered to be an absolute steal. The Reds were able to take advantage of Stoke City’s recent relegation to the Championship by activating a release clause in his contract, allowing them to pick up the Potters’ star man for a fraction of his true market value.
While the Swiss international was unlikely to displace any of Liverpool’s established forwards, he offered Jürgen Klopp a high quality squad rotation option to use off the bench or while resting Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mané at various points of the campaign.
That was certainly the case in 2018/19. Shaqiri made 30 appearances in all competitions, scoring six times as the Reds romped to Champions League glory and came agonisingly close to seizing Manchester City’s Premier League crown.
Things have been less rosy this term though. The winger’s appearances have dwindled as Liverpool find themselves on the verge of a first top flight title since 1990 – he’s played a total of just 203 minutes all season across seven matches, the last of which came back in January in a 1-0 win over Tottenham Hotspur.
Injuries have played their part, particularly a calf issue that saw Shaqiri miss eight games from September through to November. But they can’t account for such little involvement and unsurprisingly the 28-year-old appears to be growing restless.
Erdin Shaqiri, his brother and agent, has certainly been highlighting some admiring glances from other clubs, in what appears to be a concerted effort to drum up interest in his client.
“I think there will be many offers for Xherdan in the summer,” he told Kosovar TV station KTV.
“Already in January there was concrete interest from two or three clubs. These – their names have already been taken up in various media – will knock again.”
A proven Premier League performer, the former Bayern Munich man will surely be in demand once the transfer window re-opens.
Liverpool have an uncanny knack of extracting top dollar fees for their fringe players (Dominic Solanke’s £19million move to Bournemouth perhaps being the best example), but recent reports have suggested that the Reds would be willing to significantly reduce their £28million asking price to get Shaqiri out of the door.
A small profit on their initial £13million outlay may well be regarded as good business, while simultaneously appearing reasonable enough to tempt a whole host of Premier League clubs into making a bid.
The 82-cap international doesn’t fit the profile of a typical Arsenal target, but they’re a club that may well show an interest. While the Gunners appear to be focusing on promising young talent, their budget restrictions (assuming they fail to qualify for the Champions League) could see them move for a more experienced forward that’s available at a knockdown price. They’ve already been linked with Ryan Fraser on a free transfer from Bournemouth and, while Shaqiri would require a greater outlay, he’s a more proven performer at the highest level.
Talking of Bournemouth, they absolutely love a Liverpool cast-off. Whether it’s the aforementioned Solanke, Jordon Ibe, Brad Smith or last season’s loan signing of Nathaniel Clyne, Anfield is one of Eddie Howe’s favourite shopping destinations. Might they be in the market to fill a Fraser-shaped hole in their squad this summer?
There’s certainly an argument that Shaqiri is best suited to being the star of a lower-ranked Premier League side.
If we compare his performances for Liverpool in 2018/19 with those for Stoke City the previous season, we can see that (per 90 minutes played) the diminutive forward had more shots on target (0.94), created more big chances (0.41), completed more crosses (1.65) and even managed to successfully beat his man on more occasions (1.15) while at the bet365 Stadium.
That’s not to say that Shaqiri hasn’t posted some solid numbers at Anfield – his 0.51 goals per 90 in 2018/19 was the 13th best return in the Premier League for example – but he does seem to rise to the challenge when he’s the star man in a side, rather than just another squad member.
While North London could be a potential destination this summer (Tottenham Hotspur are another team that can’t resist a bargain), a move to a club chasing European football feels more likely.
Newcastle United could be awash with money in the coming months following their imminent takeover, while Everton struggle to resist players put on the market by the continent’s biggest teams. Even Southampton or West Ham United may be tempted to throw their hat into the ring for a player of the Swiss wizard’s calibre.
The location of Shaqiri’s next club is unclear, but one thing is for sure – he looks certain to be leaving Liverpool and he won’t be short of suitors. The race to sign one of the Premier League’s biggest bargains is about to get underway.