There’s a sub-section of society that buys expensive figurines and keeps them permanently in their box in order to maintain their value.
Elite football clubs have increasingly followed a similar strategy, lavishly assembling squads with the inevitable result that talented footballers waste away on the sidelines.
Take Xherdan Shaqiri* for example. Bought two years ago, the Switzerland international has appeared with increasingly less frequency as time has elapsed. Labelled as Anfield’s forgotten man by many, Shaqiri was linked with a move away from the champions over the summer transfer window.
Which is a crying shame, because Shaqiri remains an extravagantly talented footballer. Built like an upside-down triangle, the playmaker possesses the dribbling skills of a house-trained baby and the unpredictability that must make him a nightmare to defend against.
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All this was in evidence during Liverpool’s Champions League match with Midtjylland. Given a rare start by Jurgen Klopp, Shaqiri must have felt obliged to remind the watching audience of his abundant skill.
This failed to materialise in the first half, as the Danish visitors surprised Liverpool with an aggressive, swarming approach to tackling their illustrious hosts. However, Shaqiri’s moment arrived during the second half.
Having already provided the spark for Liverpool’s first goal, Shaqiri received a through ball from Gini Wijnaldum and remorselessly travelled towards the Midtjylland defence, which had parted like the Red Sea.
Consequently, Shaqiri found himself one on one with Alexander Scholz who must have been questioning every life choice that had led him to this moment.
He was shown no mercy. With an elaborate double step-over, Shaqiri had pushed Scholz back to the edge of his own penalty area and there was an air of predictability over what came next.
Laying the perfect bait, Shaqiri gave his opponent a tantalising glimpse of the ball. Like all suckers, Scholz took the bait and lunged in – only to find both Shaqiri and the ball had moved into a different postcode.
Clearly left uncoordinated by this development, Scholz fell helplessly on his backside. It was very possible the Danish defender needed oxygen treatment after the match and a doctor to diagnose twisted blood syndrome.
The move came to nothing, but that hardly matters. Shaqiri had provided a timely reminder to everyone watching of his extravagant talent.
RIP Scholz's ankles ⚰️
Xherdan Shaqiri the culprit…🙊 pic.twitter.com/F5E2FGsdk7
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) October 28, 2020
*Buy Xherdan Shaqiri and thousands of other players on Football Index. 18+, UK and Ireland customers only, begambleaware.org. T&Cs apply.