“I wanted to leave Liverpool sooner but I wasn’t allowed to; the club wouldn’t let me go. The important thing for me is that I’m gone now.”
You can’t blame Xherdan Shaqiri for being desperate to leave Anfield in the summer.
Limited to 25 starts across his three seasons with the Reds, if he had hoped it would be a case of third-time lucky in establishing himself as a starter at an elite club then he would be sadly mistaken.
The Swiss playmaker joined Jurgen Klopp’s side in the summer of 2018, shortly after Switzerland’s exit from the World Cup, as Liverpool activated a £13.5m release clause in his Stoke City contract following the Potters’ relegation.
Having been a bit-part player for most of his time with Bayern Munich, and after only lasting six months at Inter Milan, he would have seen his switch to Anfield as his last opportunity at one of Europe’s leading giants.
How he feels now having left Liverpool remains up for debate.
On one hand, he boasts Premier League, Champions League, UEFA Super Cup and FIFA Club World Cup winners’ medals.
On the other, he was an unused substitute in the Champions League and Super Cup finals, was only an 119th minute substitute in the FIFA Club World Cup final and was limited to just seven Premier League appearances, mainly because of injury, when the Reds won the Premier League in 2020.
The ultimate YouTube highlights reel player, eight goals and nine assists from 63 appearances are rather modest returns.
If he had cost more than £13.5m, you could argue that Shaqiri was a flop at Liverpool.
Afterall, despite winning three Bundesliga titles, the Champions League, UEFA Super Cup, FIFA Club World Cup and two DFB-Pokals during his time with Bayern, his time in Germany was hardly an overwhelming success on an individual basis, and being sold to Stoke after just six months at Inter speaks for itself.
But Shaqiri’s Liverpool career won’t be judged on paper.
Players will have played more, scored more and even won more for the Reds, but few will have excited as much as the player affectionately nicknamed ‘The Powercube’.
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A stunning overhead kick against Manchester United in his first pre-season was enough to win over supporters, and he’s held a warm place in their hearts ever since.
And for the first six months of his Liverpool career, he was afforded what he wanted as Klopp’s side often lined up in a 4-2-3-1 formation with the playmaker offering up goals against Cardiff City, Fulham, Burnley, Newcastle and a match-winning brace against the Red Devils.
Unfortunately the man sacrificed as the Reds reverted to 4-3-3 in 2019, he was always fighting a losing battle when up against Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino in attack.
And, as a result, that was as good as it got for his Anfield career, though he did still offer up memorable assists against Newcastle United and Barcelona as Liverpool chased down Premier League and Champions League glory, while his one strike in the 2019/20 title-winning year was a delightfully-taken effort in a 5-2 victory over Everton.
A player who would always get fans off their seats and make something happen, supporters were also able to enjoy a particularly fruitful understanding between Shaqiri and his former Bayern team-mate Thiago Alcantara during his final season at the club, having seen them resist an exit the previous summer.
Perhaps he did not feature for Liverpool as much as his talent deserved, with injuries also holding him back, and he’ll be remembered similarly to the genius Jari Litmanen.
But with Shaqiri celebrating his 30th birthday today, no-one will begrudge him his £9m move to Lyon in the summer or his honest parting shot in an interview with Watson last week.
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“I wanted to leave Liverpool sooner,” he said. “But I wasn’t allowed to; the club wouldn’t let me go. The important thing for me is that I’m gone now. There were also offers from Spain and Italy.
“I was in contact with him (Klopp) by phone before that. When the time came, he texted me. He wished me luck in that and said that I was a good player and a good guy.
“We never had any problems with each other, and we had a very good relationship. But I just wanted a new challenge, that’s normal in football. Jurgen helped me in this regard.”
Boasting a goal and an assist from seven appearances for Lyon so far, Liverpool fans will hope Shaqiri can keep his Reds injury problems in the past and finally take a deserved centre stage as he enters the latter years of his career.
And while, despite the trophies, his Liverpool career might be chalked down in a similar vein to his stints with Bayern and Inter when looking back in the years ahead, Reds fans know the truth and the real impact of ‘The Powercube’ on their rise to becoming English, European and World champions.
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