The historically smaller sides in the Premier League are beginning to prove just how competitive the division can be. Stoke’s recent acquisition of the highly-coveted Swiss superstar Xherdan Shaqiri is an example of how far the Premier League has come, with TV money influencing the ambition of the clubs that aren’t as bankrolled as others.
Shaqiri becomes the fifth former Champions League winner to arrive at the Britannia, following; Bojan, Marc Muniesa, Marko Arnautovic and Ibrahim Afellay.
Shaqiri immigrated to Switzerland in 1992, and subsequently joined local team Basel as a trainee in 2001, signing his first professional contract in 2009. The winger made his name at Basel as one of Europe’s most explosively promising players, garnering a number of accolades alongside his growing reputation. With the Swiss outfit, Shaqiri won three consecutive league titles, alongside two cup victories.
The attacking player’s glowing performances earned him his dream move to German giants Bayern Munich in February 2012 for approximately £8.3m. Despite the Bavarians dominating German football during Shaqiri’s time at the club, he himself was not considered to be a hugely successful signing as he failed to establish himself in the Bayern team. Regardless, he scored 17 goals in 81 games in all competitions over tw0-and-a-half years, including being a part of Bayern’s first ever treble. In total, he won two league titles, two German cups, a German Super Cup, the UEFA Super Cup, the FIFA Club World Cup and the 2013 Champions League.
The ‘Alpine Messi’ moved again in January 2015, joining Italian giants Inter Milan. A club undergoing a major reconstruction following a long period of limited success, boss Roberto Mancini seized the opportunity to tie down the dynamic midfielder on a four-and-a-half year contract. However, a combination of problems led to Shaqiri’s time in Italy being much shorter than expected. A poor return of only three goals in 20 games and issues with his temperament led to Mancini declaring Shaqiri surplus to requirements only six months after joining the Nerazzurri.
With a number of top European clubs willing to sign Shaqiri, it seemed destined that he would soon be plying his trade with another top side. Stoke City agreed a club record £12m fee with Inter, but Shaqiri failed to respond to their offer and so the deal subsequently went cold. However, the deal was revived after Shaqiri turned down other offers from Germany and England, with the Swiss star signing a four-year deal. Late interest from Everton was shot down due to Inter seeking a permanent transfer of the player as opposed to the Toffees’ proposed loan deal.
Internationally, Shaqiri has become the poster boy of Swiss football. He was a surprise addition to Ottmar Hitzfeld’s squad for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, but has been a starring player ever since. He was Switzerland’s star player at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, after being named man of the match in two of Switzerland’s group stage games against Ecuador and Honduras, even scoring a hat-trick against the latter.