Why Shaqiri never worked out at Liverpool

Xherdan Shaqiri

Liverpool sold Xherdan Shaqiri to French side Lyon for £9.5 million in August, ending the Swiss international’s career at Anfield.

When Xherdan Shaqiri signed for Liverpool from Stoke for £13 million in 2018, there was a big expectation upon the Swiss international. Before heading to Merseyside, Shaqiri represented Bayern Munich and FC Basel in Europa and made nearly 100 appearances for Stoke in the Premier League.

He was certainly a talent, and he showed glimpses of class while wearing the infamous red shirt at Liverpool. Shaqiri produced infamous moments, including a super-sub appearance in 2018 against Man United, where he scored two goals after coming off the bench, leading the Reds to a 3-1 win.

But his biggest moment for Liverpool came in 2019, as the Reds overturned a 3-0 deficit against Barcelona to reach the Champions League final. Shaqiri assisted Gigi Wijnaldum’s third goal at a crucial time in the match, which helped the Reds defeat Barcelona.

Due to his fleeting moments of brilliance, Shaqiri earned a reputation as a big-game player at Liverpool. He was never a regular under Klopp. Injuries, new signings, emerging youngsters and consistent form from the Reds’ top players pushed Shaqiri down the pecking order and led to his departure this summer.

Declining Game Time and Injuries

During his first season at Anfield, Shaqiri enjoyed a consistent run in the first team as he made 25 appearances in all competitions. The attacking midfielder had spells of good form in the 2018/19 season, scoring six goals and providing three assists in the Premier League.

But, over the next two seasons, Shaqiri’s game time dropped considerably at Anfield. In the 2019/20 season, the Swiss playmaker made just 11 appearances for Liverpool in all competitions and played seven games in the Premier League, scoring one goal. As a result, Shaqiri’s presence at the club was diminishing. Last season, he made 21 appearances in all competitions for the Reds, scored no goals and made just four assists.

Injuries played a part in Shaqiri’s lack of game time at Anfield. The Swiss international could not build up a good run of form or game time on Merseyside. He suffered a calf injury early in the 2019/20 season, where he missed the first third of the season. Despite returning for a short spell, Shaqiri was side-lined again with a thigh injury before his calf problem returned towards the end of the season. Injury issues hindered Shaqiri in the 2020/21 season too. He was out for two months between November and January, limiting his playing time.

Consistent Form of Salah, Mane, Firmino

Shaqiri showed plenty of promise in the Premier League for both Stoke and Liverpool, netting a combined 22 goals and made 20 assists in his six seasons in the top-flight. However, his move to Liverpool saw him contending with some of the Reds’ top performers in recent seasons.

Klopp’s preferred front three of Mo Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino often kept Shaqiri out of the first team and limit the Swiss midfielder to substitute appearances. In Shaqiri’s first season, 2018/19, all three forwards scored more than Shaqiri in the Premier League. Firmino netted 12, and Mane and Salah both scored 22 in the league.

In the following two seasons, the attacking trio kept their places in attack after showing intense consistency week in week out. Salah and Mane, in particular, kept Shaqiri out of the team when he was fit, as they both reached double figures in the past two seasons in the Premier League.

New Signings and Breakthrough Players

In addition to injuries and consistent performances from Salah, Mane and Firmino in recent seasons, further competition for Shaqiri came from new signings and Liverpool’s academy.

Firstly, the signing of Diogo Jota at the beginning of the 2020/21 season provided Liverpool with another attacking option. Although Jota plays as an out and out striker, his arrival created more competition for Shaqiri in the wide positions, pushing him further down the squad list behind Firmino, who is now starting on the bench for the Reds.

But, Liverpool youngster Harvey Elliot emergence as a bright prospect ultimately contributed to Shaqiri’s Anfield departure this season.

Klopp has placed plenty of trust in 18-year-old Elliot, who has played in the first two games of the 2021/22 season. Elliot burst on the scene during the 2019/20 season and was handed starts in the EFL Cup and the FA Cup. Red’s fans will be hoping he can continue his impressive start once again in that tournament so they can do some FA Cup Betting with Liverpool historically performing well in the later stages. The attacking midfielder continued his development on loan at Blackburn last season in the Championship. Elliot made 41 appearances, scored seven goals and provided 11 assists.

Elliot’s performances have earned approval from Klopp, and he is likely to get his chance at Anfield this season. This rise contributed to Shaqiri’s departure from the club as Elliot will provide a suitable replacement as a highly-rated attacking midfielder.