Swiss footballing talent has a habit of
disappearing in Europe's big leagues but Xherdan Shaqiri's
impressive competitive debut with Bayern Munich suggested he
could go on to become a welcome exception.
The 20-year-old could not have made a better start as he
scored from a free kick and set up two more goals after coming
on at half-time in a 4-0 German Cup win at Regensburg on Monday.
Even though his performance came against second division
opposition, there was enough to suggest the son of Kosovan
immigrants can fulfill his potential.
"He is a player who is capable of holding the ball and of
producing surprises and creativity," Bayern sporting director
Matthias Sammer told reporters. "That makes him unpredictable."
Shaqiri, who has already won three Swiss league and two cup
titles with FC Basel, came on with Bayern 1-0 ahead and making
heavy weather of the first round game.
He doubled Bayern's lead just past the hour mark before
setting up the third and fourth goals for Mario Mandzukic and
When he signed for Bayern in February, many wondered how the
short and stocky ball-dribbling specialist would force his way
into a team already featuring Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery.
Coincidentally, Bayern faced Basel in the Champions League
shortly afterwards and the gulf looked enormous as Ribery and
Robben combined to take the Swiss champions apart in a 7-0
drubbing, while Shaqiri barely touched the ball.
Switzerland has invested heavily in youth development yet,
like many countries, see their best hopefuls disappear once they
leave the country.
The most striking example was Johan Vonlanthen, who became
the youngest player to ever score in the European Championship
at the age of 18 in 2004, yet quit the game four months ago
after his career failed to take off.
Another is Nassim Ben Khalifa, who helped Switzerland win
the world under-17 championship in 2009.
A regular for Grasshoppes at the age of 17, he has now
returned to the Zurich-based club after failing to establish
himself at VfL Wolfsburg and Nuremburg in Germany.
Bayern coach Jupp Heynckes, who has already nurtured the
talent of 20-year-old Austrian prospect David Alaba, promised
that Shaqiri's future was safe in his hands.
"I did a lot for the transfer of Xherdan," he said after
Monday's win. "Anyone knows my opinion of him knows full well
that there is no danger of him disappearing into oblivion.
"He has everything a footballer needs and shows that every
day in training."
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