Xherdan Shaqiri Hat-Trick Leaves Bayern Munich with Squad-Planning Dilemma

Clark WhitneyFeatured ColumnistJune 26, 2014

Switzerland's Xherdan Shaqiri salutes as he carries the ball after scoring a hat-trick during the group E World Cup soccer match between Honduras and Switzerland at the Arena da Amazonia in Manaus, Brazil, Wednesday, June 25, 2014. Switzerland won 3-0.(AP Photo/Felipe Dana)
Felipe Dana/Associated Press

When Xherdan Shaqiri joined Bayern Munich in the summer of 2012, he looked to be a long-term replacement for Franck Ribery or Arjen Robben. The plan appeared to be that the Swiss attacker would get an increasingly prevalent role in the team as the longstanding starting duo advanced in years before ultimately taking a permanent role in the first XI.

As events have unfolded, Shaqiri has had a difficult career in Munich. Now approaching 23 years of age, he's yet to nail down a starting role and was only used sparingly even as a substitute in 2013-14, the additions of Mario Gotze and Thiago Alcantara having added competition to an already star-studded lineup.

Per Transfermarkt, Shaqiri made 39 appearances in 2012-13, scoring eight goals and assisting 13 more in 1911 minutes. His rather low average of 49 minutes per game left him with a prolific record of a goal scored or assisted every 91 minutes.

However, following the arrivals of Gotze and Thiago in the summer of 2013 and despite a marked downturn in Ribery's form in the latter stages of the season, Shaqiri saw his role decrease in 2013-14. His appearance tally (in part due to injuries) dropped to 27, his goals to seven, assists to four and minutes to 1226. He played an average of 45 minutes per appearance and 111 minutes per goal scored or assisted.

Frustrated by his situation, Shaqiri gave a refreshingly candid interview with Swiss source 20 Minuten at season's end.

"It's clear that I don't want to go on like this. I'm young and need to develop myself," he said. "I want to play in big games from the beginning and not just in the Bundesliga when everything is already decided."

Shorty after his interview, Kicker (in German) claimed Liverpool had submitted an official offer to Bayern for Shaqiri. Last week, Daily Mail confirmed the report, claiming the Premier League side were set to bid £16 million (€20 million) for the versatile attacker.

Shaqiri's stock took a sharp rise on Wednesday as he heroically led Switzerland to the World Cup knockout rounds, scoring all three goals in his country's 3-0 win over Honduras. After not quite finding the sharpness in front of goal to affect games against Ecuador and France, he had an explosion of form in what was a do-or-die match for the Swiss.

Shaqiri scored a rocket of an opener from distance before slotting in a pair of striker-like finishes from closer range to round off his hat-trick. This was only the second hat-trick of the tournament, following Bayern teammate Thomas Mueller's treble for Germany against Portugal. And it could not have come in a higher-stakes scenario, with Switzerland, still reeling from a 5-2 hammering by France, needing a win against Honduras to overcome Ecuador for second place in Group E.

Bayern are now left in a tricky situation. Shaqiri is under contract until 2016 but quite evidently will not accept another season spent warming the bench. Robben is (and has for some time been) in the form of his life, but will turn 31 years of age midway through next season. The 31-year-old Ribery had a drop in form towards the end of the 2013-14 campaign, but even without him in the starting lineup, Bayern have Gotze and Thomas Mueller competing for one starting spot.

Something's got to give: Either Bayern sell Shaqiri or they use him as a starter ahead of some world-class players, any combination of which could be sold. Until recently, it seemed that the Swiss winger would certainly be on his way out the door, but Wednesday's performance may have made Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, Pep Guardiola, Matthias Sammer and company blink.

On the one hand, Shaqiri isn't particularly needed at Bayern at this point. On the other hand, he's on the rise while Robben and especially Ribery haven't long before they fade into the sunset.

Bayern have a tough decision to make, but their overlooked forward's hat trick will have increased his value to the Roten and any potential suitor, which is good news for the club. But the best cards now are in Shaqiri's hands. The 22-year-old has given his club an ultimatum and will either continue as a more relied-upon player or find himself another club. Should he keep up his excellent form, his options will be many.


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