Thursday 19 September 2019

New Kop idol Shaqiri revels in Klopp's show of faith

Xherdan Shaqiri has started the season in fine form for Liverpool. Photo: Reuters
Xherdan Shaqiri has started the season in fine form for Liverpool. Photo: Reuters

Andy Kelly

The standing ovation told its own story. Anfield is always keen - sometimes too keen - to welcome a new hero into its midst but it was difficult to argue the diminutive figure leaving the hallowed turf didn't deserve his moment.

 

In just a few months at Anfield, Xherdan Shaqiri's moments are starting to mount up. Four assists and two goals his tally from his last six Liverpool appearances.

His latest, a lovely caressed volley in front of the Kop on Sunday, gave his team a second goal and breathing space against a Fulham side who performed better than their bottom of the table position suggested.

Goal aside, Shaqiri had been the most creative force on view all game, flourishing in a 4-2-3-1 formation which has been virtually forced upon Jurgen Klopp in order to ensure the winger's place on the pitch.

The Swiss was viewed as the afterthought of Liverpool's summer midfield spending, his £13.5m price tag dwarfed by the £53m needed to prise Naby Keita from RB Leipzig and the £40m which secured Fabinho's ticket from Monaco.

Outshone

Yet Shaqiri has outshone them both.

Plucked from relegated Stoke, he is bringing spark and vision to a midfield which was being criticised for a lack of both. The 27-year-old reciprocates the appreciation he receives from the Liverpool faithful.

"It's always nice when you get a standing ovation or the people are behind you," explained Shaqiri. "We have amazing fans and I scored again in front of the Kop so it was a nice feeling. A good cross from Robbo (Andy Robertson) and it was a nice finish.

"I think we wanted to make a reaction after defeat in Belgrade so it was important to keep going in the league.

Liverpool suffered that defeat in Belgrade without Shaqiri, left behind on Merseyside by Jurgen Klopp so his side could concentrate on football rather than politics.

Shaqiri, born in Kosovo and with Albanian heritage, enraged Serbian fans during the World Cup by celebrating his goal against them by making an eagle symbol with his hands - the sign of an Albanian nationalist.

Despite Liverpool's subsequent defeat to Red Star, Shaqiri backs his manager's attempt at sporting diplomacy.

"He just wanted to concentrate on football because everybody knows what happened. There is a very hot atmosphere there and so it was better to stay at home and just concentrate on football. I was fresh, I stayed here and trained with some other players."

Shaqiri is flourishing among Liverpool's talent-laden squad but is keen to stress that his career has been full of such quality teammates.

Stoke was, after all, preceded by spells at Inter Milan and Bayern Munich and he was a Champions League winner with the latter, albeit as an unused substitute when Jurgen Klopp's Borussia Dortmund were defeated at Wembley.

"I played in Bayern Munich with Franck Ribery, Arjen Robben, so I knew it already! It was nothing new for me. I knew already how good these very talented players (were). We have a very good team, young team also, so our process is going very well and I'm just proud to be part of this team." (© Independent News Service)

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