Last season, the prominent Swiss newspaper “Basler Zeitung” featured the then FC Basel line-up on its front page under the headline “Switzerland’s Greatest Ever Club Side”. Even allowing for a hint of bias by the paper about its hometown club, they did have a strong case.
FC Basel had been a competent outfit for several years now, racking up a string of domestic trophies. But the extra dimension last year came from two young discoveries, Xherdan Shaqiri and Granit Xhaka. Both were born in the same Kosovan town, Gjilan, and are emblematic of how Swiss football has benefitted from allying the talent of the country’s immigrant-origin populations to its top class facilities and coaching programmes. Shaqiri and Xhaka have shone on their way through the ranks of Switzerland’s phenomenally successful age group teams and have been fast-tracked into the full national team, where they have already begun to add a welcome dose of imagination to a sturdy but often uninspired team.
He has also been praised regularly by his coaches for his willingness to learn and to develop his already outstanding skills further
Arsenal have joined Manchester United in taking an interest and would be well-advised to pursue it. Xhaka is a tall, elegant and strong all-round midfielder who shows every sign of becoming that rare kind of player who can control games from the centre of the pitch. His touch and passing is excellent and he has a good work-rate. Off the field, Xhaka comes across as an intelligent and engaging young man. He has also been praised regularly by his coaches for his willingness to learn and to develop his already outstanding skills further. There would of course be some adaptation required if Xhaka were to move to Arsenal or Manchester United but he is accustomed to transition, having made the more dramatic switch from Kosovo to Switzerland as a kid. In common with today’s other top Swiss prospects, Xhaka also comes with the advantage of having already played plenty of high-level football and having been given a lot of on-field responsibility at an early age.
Click here for more Arsenal stories