He’s only 1.69 metres (5 ft 6 1/2 in) tall, and weighs 72 kilograms (158 lbs), but his tree-trunk thighs resemble those of strike legend Gerd Müller: Xherdan Shaqiri, Bayern’s Swiss newcomer, has completed his first two days at Germany’s leading cub. After Tuesday’s first workout of pre-season, the 20-year-old put in two shifts on Wednesday, including the performance benchmarking tests at Munich University.
“I really enjoyed making my start here,” the Swiss international said between sessions, “I’ve been quickly and warmly accepted by my new team-mates.” Shaqiri, who left top Swiss outfit FC Basel last month for a four-year stint in Munich, said he feels “very comfortable” at his new club.
“I’ve played through the last three seasons at FC Basel without a break. It’s the perfect time to try my hand abroad,” said Der Kraftwürfel, or “power cube” as Shaqiri is nicknamed for his physical appearance and dynamic playing style. “Bayern is the perfect club for me,” he continued.
Shaqiri is now keen to carry on where he left off at Basel, who made it a hat-trick of Swiss league titles in the spring and added a cup triumph to complete the double last term. “Bayern desires and has to win trophies, these are our ambitions. I want to strengthen and help the team, so we have a fantastic and successful season,” he declared.
In order to focus completely on making a good start in Munich, Shaqiri has opted not to take part at the Olympic Football Tournament in London. “I have to integrate into my new team. It was clear to me from the start that I was inclined towards Bayern, even if every player dreams of competing at the Olympics,” explained Shaqiri. “It would certainly have been a great experience, but I can only integrate fully if I’m 100 percent here.”
The Olympics take place from 27 July until 12 August in London, right in the crucial period of pre-season. Two weeks later, the 50th Bundesliga season kicks off. In contrast to Germany, Switzerland are qualified for the Games in London. “Naturally, I’m hoping they still go a long way without me,” said Shaqiri, who will be rooting for his U-23 international team-mates from Munich.
A street footballer
Bayern boss Jupp Heynckes described the gifted attacking midfielder as “a street footballer, who plays the game intuitively”. However, Shaqiri will need to be “brought up to FC Bayern levels,” the head coach continued. “It’s different here, as he’ll soon notice.” However, Heynckes believes the Swiss starlet has the quality “to make life difficult for the established players”.
In Basel, the left-footed Shaqiri generally played as an attacking right midfielder, although he has also featured on the left, in the centre and at full-back. “I think it’s an advantage nowadays when you’re versatile and not confined to one single position,” said a clearly confident Shaq, who has set himself one overriding priority: “I intend to make the breakthrough here!”