Monday 22 July 2019

Stoke boss Paul Lambert: Xherdan Shaqiri ‘hungry’ to help in relegation fight

Shaqiri won five successive league titles with Basel and Bayern Munich but finds himself in a relegation battle with Stoke.

Xherdan Shaqiri, pictured left, has scored five times for Stoke this season
Xherdan Shaqiri, pictured left, has scored five times for Stoke this season

By Liam Blackburn, Press Association Sport

Xherdan Shaqiri may be a Champions League winner with a value Paul Lambert cannot quantify, but the Stoke boss feels his playmaker has the stomach for their relegation scrap.

The Potters remain 18th in the Premier League table with 12 games to go and a battle against the drop is something few in Lambert’s squad have previously experienced.

Ex-Inter Milan winger Shaqiri falls into that category having won a total of five successive league titles with Basel and Bayern Munich at the start of his career, while he was also on the bench for Bayern at Wembley when they won the Champions League in 2013.

The 26-year-old is experiencing life at the other end of the table this season yet has still weighed in with five goals, the most recent of which came against Bournemouth last weekend, and new boss Lambert has been encouraged by what he has seen from Shaqiri.

“I think he’s hungry that way to be involved,” Lambert said. “When you get players who have played at that level, the ability is always there and I think he’s got that in abundance.

“He’s only a young guy and I think he will get better and better with it.

“But the biggest accolade I can give him is he’s a top-class footballer.

“Shaq is a unique player who can make things happen and do a lot of things that other players can’t.

“He’s got a terrific left foot, he’s got a great eye for a pass and he scored last week.

“Every time he has the ball I think something is going to happen.

“So to be at the clubs he’s been at, you can’t be a bad player if you’ve played for those.

“I think he’s a top, top, top player and, as his career progresses, he’ll get better and better. He’s a top guy and without doubt he’s a top-class footballer.”

Shaqiri and Lambert share a link in that they were both managed by Ottmar Hitzfeld.

Lambert played in Hitzfeld’s Champions League-winning Borussia Dortmund side while the former Switzerland manager also gave Shaqiri his international debut.

“I knew Shaq at Bayern Munich and saw him a couple of times and thought he was a big, big talent then,” Lambert said.

“Playing under Ottmar would have been great for him. He’s played under Jupp Heynckes as well and he was substitute in a winning Champions League final.

“So he’s a big-time player and he’s played in big occasions but nothing really fazes him.

“He’s played under big managers, so regarding him, in the three games since I’ve been here, he’s been exceptional.”

Should Shaqiri fire Stoke to safety, he could become in demand this summer with two years left on his deal.

He was a then club-record £12million acquisition back in 2015 but Lambert is unwilling to put a price-tag on Shaqiri now following Neymar’s £200.6million move to Paris St Germain over the summer.

“Modern-day prices I don’t get involved in, I don’t bother with it,” Lambert added.

“The Neymar deal – whatever that was – put it out there but I’m sure there are better guys than me can say how much he (Shaqiri) is worth.

“He will certainly be up there with a fair few of them, that’s for sure.”

PA Media

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