Liverpool vs. Bayern Munich: The rise, fall and rise again of Xherdan Shaqiri

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Within the space of a few days last summer, Xherdan Shaqiri was labelled “unprofessional” and a “disgrace” by Gary and Phil Neville, respectively.

Charlie Adam, meanwhile, publicly accused his former teammate of going missing after Stoke City were relegated following a 10-year stint in the Premier League.

But despite all the name-calling and accusations, Jurgen Klopp unexpectedly decided to bring the much-maligned midfielder to Liverpool, triggering his £13 million release clause in the process.

Klopp’s decision to sign Shaqiri raised plenty of eyebrows at the time. His reputation had plummeted to a new low following Stoke’s relegation to the Championship and many Liverpool supporters were apprehensive about the prospect of the Switzerland international pulling on the red shirt, despite the relatively low transfer fee.

Meanwhile, fans of other Premier League clubs mocked the Reds on social media when the deal was announced. But seven months later and it’s safe to say they’re not laughing now.

Shaqiri has exceeded expectations since moving to Merseyside, scoring six goals and registering three assists in his first 25 appearances for the club.

He’s impressed everybody at Anfield with both his talent, which was never really in doubt, and attitude. This is clearly a player who firmly believes he belongs at one of Europe’s biggest football clubs.

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Shaqiri has made a habit of proving people wrong recently and on Tuesday night he will have the opportunity to prove yet another point against Bayern Munich, one of his former teams who unceremoniously dumped him, in the Champions League.

When thinking of the 27-year-old’s career to date, the term ‘topsy-turvy’ springs to mind.

With FC Basel the Swiss midfielder established his status as one of European football’s most talented youngsters, shining both domestically and on the continent.

This led to a €9 million transfer to Bayern when he was just 20 years old - a move which, in hindsight, came far too early in his career.

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Shaqiri started just 26 games in the Bundesliga during his three seasons with the Bavarian giants, and just once in the Champions League.

Competition for first-team places was fierce, with the likes of Xabi Alonso, Mario Gotze, Frank Ribery, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Sebastian Rode, Arjen Robben, Thomas Muller and Robert Lewandowski all vying for a spot in the starting XI.

The less Shaqiri played, the more his confidence suffered and the worse his performances got. It became a vicious cycle.

He was sent to Inter Milan for the second half of the 2014-15 campaign but failed to make a significant impact with the Serie A outfit. The left-footed midfielder subsequently found himself at Stoke City in the summer of 2015.

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No disrespect intended to Stoke but this represented a remarkable fall from grace for a player who’d been tipped for greatness just a few years earlier.

Shaqiri showed plenty of flashes of brilliance during his three years with the Potters but his spell ultimately ended on a sour note with that relegation.

“When the chips are down you look at your big players, you want your big players to bring magic in one moment in the season,” Charlie Adam told talkSPORT last July after confirming Shaqiri was one of the Stoke players he felt had ‘got away with murder’ during the previous season.

“And at times we felt like the so-called big players in the squad never turned up for us and never performed.”

However, Shaqiri is proof that players who have been written off and publicly slated can come back and silence everybody when they have the support of their manager and the club’s fans.

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It’s no exaggeration to suggest that Klopp and Liverpool have saved Shaqiri’s career - and they’ve provided him with the perfect platform to finally fulfil his huge talent and potential.

You won’t find anybody calling him unprofessional or a disgrace these days, and Shaqiri deserves credit for making the most of his current opportunity and turning things around for himself in the process.

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