Swiss star Xherdan Shaqiri is so good he could gatecrash Jurgen Klopp’s attacking trio at Liverpool
- Xherdan Shaqiri has already proved his worth since signing for Liverpool
- Shaqiri left Stoke after the club was relegated to the Championship last term
- Peter Crouch remembers when the Swiss star first joined Stoke in August 2015
- Shaqiri is doing his best to break into Jurgen Klopp’s starting line-up
Peter Crouch is a columnist for Sportsmail
Most training sessions are quickly forgotten. During the course of your career, you will spend thousands of hours practising drills to the point that you are almost on autopilot.
There are, however, mornings that stay in your mind forever, those times when somebody did something out of the ordinary.
When I think about Xherdan Shaqiri, I will always remember the day he introduced himself to us at Stoke in the most remarkable fashion.
I knew all about Shaqiri before Stoke signed him. I’d been aware of him at Inter Milan and Bayern Munich and I was, to put it mildly, pleasantly surprised that he arrived in the Potteries.
Shaq, as we got to know him, scored a hat-trick in a five-a-side game. You might think there is nothing unusual about that but when I tell you one of his goals involved him chipping the goalkeeper from about eight yards, you will appreciate why this stayed in my mind.
He did other things that marked him out as different. It was the way he passed the ball, the pace he put on his passes and the quality of the free-kicks he struck. After that first session, I was convinced we had signed a star in the making.
To see him thriving for Liverpool, then, comes as no surprise to me. When he got his move to Anfield in the summer, I said to a few of the lads in our dressing room that he would go there and rip it up and that is what he has been doing over the last few weeks.
People say it is impossible to break up Liverpool’s three-man attack of Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane when they are all fit but if anyone is going to do it, Shaqiri can. In terms of ability, he is up there with the best I’ve played with. Trust me, he can be whatever he wants to be.
Xherdan Shaqiri is proving to be a shrewd signing by Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp
This can’t just be an article, though, that concentrates on the positives. It was important to talk about his first training session because what happened afterwards took us all by surprise.
In many respects, Shaqiri got lost in his first few months at Stoke and he found English football a culture shock.
It really did take him a long time to adjust. He needed 17 appearances before he scored for the first time and his first season at our club saw him end with as many goals (three) as he did bookings. There was an improvement in his second year but only marginally, with his tally standing at four.
Last season was much better but, again, it was not without issues. He scored nine goals but it didn’t stop us going down and it led to him being criticised — from within the dressing room and by pundits who questioned his work rate. Did he go missing in terms of tracking back to help the defence? The honest answer is yes. I think he felt he needed to be the man who scored and created goals, particularly after Marko Arnautovic had moved on, but Shaq didn’t always do what he needed to at the other end.
Peter Crouch has fond memories of playing alongside Shaqiri at Stoke who he left this summer
There is no escaping the fact that it was a difficult 12 months but I wasn’t in the least bit surprised Liverpool took advantage of his release clause. For someone with his ability, £13million is a bargain in this day and age and I’m only surprised that more clubs didn’t register an interest. I know he is going to have a big season. I saw the ball he slipped in to Salah at Huddersfield last week and the pass he played against Red Star Belgrade in the Champions League. These showed me he has found his feet.
Maybe the difficulties he experienced at Stoke have helped the penny drop. He is playing for a manager now in Jurgen Klopp who will not tolerate anyone who shirks their defensive duties and if Shaqiri adds that to his game, he will be an exceptional talent.
You need belief in yourself to thrive at Anfield and that is something he has got in abundance. Nobody has ever doubted his talent and now it seems he is maturing. Perhaps he appreciates what an opportunity he has been given.
Liverpool look the real deal this season. They are so dynamic and so exciting and their squad is primed to push for the biggest trophies.
Shaqiri might just be the man who provides the final ingredient to the team. He is genuinely special — it’s up to him to prove it.
If Chelsea had spent £35million on Ruben, he’d play
Ruben Loftus-Cheek’s name has appeared many times on this page. I make no secret about how big a fan I am and I was delighted to see him score three for Chelsea against BATE Borisov on Thursday.
But I will be looking at Maurizio Sarri’s teamsheet at Burnley on Sunday with interest. Will Loftus-Cheek actually be in the squad? It would be demoralising for him, I’m sure, to miss out on the 18 at Turf Moor having bagged a hat-trick in Europe three days earlier. How can that work?
I watched Loftus-Cheek regularly last season and the game that sticks in my mind was when Crystal Palace came to the Bet365 Stadium in May and beat Stoke 2-1. I went home convinced that he would become a regular starter at Stamford Bridge.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek scored a hat-trick in Chelsea’s comfortable win over BATE Borisov
It hasn’t happened so far — he has only played 33 minutes in the Premier League this season — and I sometimes feel this is the problem for a young player who has come through the ranks. They are easily overlooked. If Chelsea had spent £35million on him in the summer, I’m certain he would have been on the pitch more.
It shows how strong Chelsea are that they can leave someone with his ability on the fringes — and why they will be a threat to Manchester City and Liverpool in the coming months.
They appear to be a happy squad once again. Towards the end of Antonio Conte’s reign it looked like it had become a bit of a drag. Chelsea were doing regular double sessions and the bulk of training revolved around working on team shape.
You can see now, though, that they are playing for their manager again. They are title contenders once more. The issue at Chelsea has never been anything to do with the talent of their players, it has been about commitment. Right now, they look focused on their goal.
Traffic delay put Pompey Glen into overdrive!
The issues Manchester United have had getting to Old Trafford on European nights due to traffic congestion reminded me of a story about Glen Johnson.
It was during our time together at Portsmouth in the build up to arguably one of the biggest matches in the club’s history — the night AC Milan came to Fratton Park in the UEFA Cup.
Nobody wanted to miss that game but, due to the traffic on the M3, Glen found his place in the balance.
He’d set off from his house in Surrey around 3.30pm ahead of an 8pm kick-off but soon he was in road blocks and having to make frantic calls to Harry Redknapp, our manager, to tell him about his situation.
Glen Johnson would have to regularly make long distance trips to Portsmouth from Surrey
Eventually he arrived at Fratton Park at 7.30pm, while we were completing our warm-up.
Harry asked whether he would be OK to start and Glen said yes. But he didn’t just start, he was man of the match and involved in both our goals.
It was a ridiculously good performance, particularly when you think his preparation consisted of racing into the dressing room and throwing his kit on.
I’ve been held up a few times on the coach and it is unsettling when you arrive late. I have always enjoyed being at the stadium early, reading the programme and starting my build up that way.
Who’s caught my eye… Mesut Ozil
I have been critical of him in the past but when Mesut Ozil plays as he did against Leicester there aren’t many better. He’s got such a languid style that, when it isn’t working for him, he looks lazy.
If it clicks as it did for Arsenal’s third goal against Leicester on Monday, he makes football look like a thing of beauty. He divides opinion but he has incredible ability.
Next up for me…
We’ve got a chance to get a breather in before the next big slog of games but I am still expecting a tough week at our Clayton Woods training ground to prepare for next Saturday’s home game with Middlesbrough, who have been helping set the pace in the race for promotion.
What I’m listening to…
I was very late to the party with Interpol, who are an American rock band. My mates have been fans of theirs for years but I am firmly on them now and have been giving their most recent album Marauder plenty of air time this week.
What I’ve been up to…
You may have seen my appearance on Gogglebox on Friday with Abbey and her dad, Geoff. It was great fun to take part in and it was even more of a pleasure to help such a worthy cause in Stand Up To Cancer.
Crazy to let Martial go
It is remarkable that Anthony Martial is in the final year of his contract at Manchester United.
I had to do a double take when I saw he is still only 22 because it feels like he has been on the scene for a long time. The reality is he is only just getting started in his professional life.
He looks to me like a player who will respond to having an arm around his shoulder, one of those individuals who needs to be looked after to stop him going into his shell.
Manchester United would be crazy to let Antony Martial leave – he is an outstanding footballer
He thrives when he is confident and you saw how good he can be at Chelsea last Saturday. There is a lot of talk around what will happen with his deal but one thing you can say for certain is that, if the deadlock continues, come January 1 every top club in Europe will want him.
Martial could be United’s main striker for the next 10 years and it would be crazy if he was allowed to drift away for nothing.
I would be amazed if that happens. United paid £50million for him and it would cost more than that to find a replacement of comparable quality.
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