Having grown frustrated with waiting patiently for a chance that’s probably never going to come, it looks as if Xherdan Shaqiri is finally about to leave Liverpool.
The little Swiss magician, with his cheeky smile and calves that defy all known rules of biology, has been good value for his £13m transfer fee. In three years at Anfield, he’s brought everything he has to the table – but some bad luck with injuries, and the sheer quality of the players in front of him, mean that he has lost the battle for regular first-team football.
In a recent interview in Italy, he revealed he wants to leave this summer, and there was a strong hint at a move to Lazio – where sporting director Igli Tare shares his Albanian heritage.
The idea of a hungry, fit Shaqiri running amok in Serie A should greatly excite Lazio fans to no end. His showing at Euro 2020, scoring three times as Switzerland made the quarter-finals, were a hint at his obvious creative ability, but it’s been obvious throughout his time at Liverpool that there is a very good player in there – he’s averaged a goal or an assist for every 146 minutes he’s on the pitch.
He’s just unlucky to have landed behind one of the best attacking tridents in modern football, and never quite found the consistency to knock one of them off their perch.
Among Shaqiri’s highlights were that match-winning double against Manchester United in his first season, and that alone was enough to ensure that when he does leave Anfield, he will do so with the best wishes of every Liverpool fan with a sense of reason.
It was also an indicator of exactly what Lazio are getting should the deal go through. Shaqiri is a match-winner, and while he won’t give you a lung-bursting shift at both ends of the pitch, he’s exactly who you want taking that high-pressure shot from the edge of the box when the game hangs in the balance.
At another time in history, he’d have been a hugely influential player at Anfield. There’s no doubt the player who curled in the cross for Georginio Wijnaldum’s earth-shaking equaliser against Barcelona, and took Everton apart by himself in one festive Merseyside derby, would have been a massive player had he landed at Anfield just a few years earlier.
But after three years of flying against the wind and hoping that sheer persistence would pay off eventually, he’s decided to call it quits.
And at 29, with two years to run on his deal, he is probably doing so at the right time for everyone involved.