The forward on the goals that led to Mourinho’s sacking, wanting to play more and his relationship with Switzerland and Kosovo.
“Big Shaq in the building,” boomed Virgil van Dijk as Liverpool’s victorious players returned to their changing room on Sunday. Xherdan Shaqiri – all five foot, six inches of said “Big Shaq” – had made his presence felt at Anfield before the starring cameo against Manchester United that prompted Van Dijk’s proclamation. Even so, he is genuinely taken aback by the reaction to the special day that did for a former special one.
“It has had a big impact,” Shaqiri says of his matchwinning contribution for Liverpool against the old adversary. “I can see it from the people working here.” He is referring to Melwood, a hive of activity as Jürgen Klopp’s players prepare for Friday’s visit to Wolverhampton Wanderers, pose for photoshoots and film Christmas greetings. Georginio Wijnaldum is sporting a Santa hat while recording a festive message for supporters. Jordan Henderson high-fives two young fans on a visit to the training ground. Shaqiri looks sheepish at the acclaim reserved for him since Sunday. He adds: “We had the Christmas party that night and it seemed everybody was coming over to me to say thank you. I was quite surprised.
Everybody was saying; ‘Thank you, thank you, you’re a legend already!’ That was nice to hear, and it was a nice feeling that day, but I’m a guy who closes each day and looks forward. In the end, it was a Premier League game with three points and now I am looking forward to the next one on Friday.”
Fatime and Isen, Shaqiri’s parents, share both his love for English football and pride in returning to the level he enjoyed with Bayern Munich and, to a lesser extent, Internazionale.
Isen and Fatime left Kosovo with their three sons – who all eventually played for Basel’s youth teams – when Shaqiri was four years old, before the war started. His father washed dishes in a restaurant when the family first arrived in Switzerland before finding work in construction. His mother was a cleaner, Xherdan her assistant. His family background accompanies Liverpool’s man of the moment each time he sets foot on the pitch.
“You can see my history on my football boots with my flags,” he explains. “A lot of people have misunderstood this. I was born in Kosovo and grew up in Switzerland. Some people think I’m not giving everything for Switzerland because I have the flag of Kosovo on one foot but that is totally wrong. It is a big part of my history, my life history, and will always be with me. The Swiss flag is on my left foot because I score with that but I scored one with my left and one with my right against Man United so it was one for both! I had big flags on the back of my boots for the World Cup. The flags I have now are smaller but they are there.”
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