From Lineker to Hitzfeld - What the Pros Say About Granit Xhaka

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Arsenal look set to complete their first major piece of transfer business this summer with the acquisition of Granit Xhaka from Borussia Monchengladbach.

A defensive midfielder, who previously made his name alongside Xherdan Shaqiri at Basel in Switzerland, Xhaka was part of the Switzerland team that won the Under-17 World Cup in Nigeria back in 2009 and more recently featured at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

Still only 23, Xhaka is a ball-winning midfielder who has also garnered praise for his range of passing and fine shooting skills.


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But what do his former managers, fellow players, pundits and even himself think of his career to date?

Here's what some very notable names from the world of football have said about Arsenal's latest recruit.

His First Manager

Former Bayern Munich player Thorsten Fink, who managed Xhaka during his breakthrough spell at Basel, told Sporting Witness what initially caught his eye about the teenage midfielder:

"The first thing I noticed was his huge self-confidence. This is probably still his greatest strength. That attribute combined with his left foot, his size and his vision makes him a very special player," 

"He is a young player, but still a leader on and off the pitch – a quality very hard to find."

His Biggest Doubter

When news of Arsenal's reported interest in Xhaka first broke this season, Gary Lineker was among those to comment online. Lineker, who watched Xhaka for Borussia Monchengladbach in the Champions League for BT Sport, was less than impressed, commenting on Twitter:

"Watched him a lot. He's got potential but he ain't [N'Golo] Kanté,"

"Twice as expensive half as good. Hope they don't change their minds."

His Biggest Supporter

As former Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund manager, Ottmar Hitzfeld has coached and nurtured his fair share of world-class talent in the Bundesliga. He also handed Xhaka his first full cap as Switzerland manager in 2011 and told FourFourTwo the following about the midfielder:

“I see similarities between Granit and Bastian Schweinsteiger, whom I promoted to the first team at Bayern Munich when he was 18."

“He is extremely mature, highly intelligent, reads the game well and has good technical skills.”

His Dreams

Despite regularly insisting he was happy with Gladbach in the Bundesliga, Xhaka also made no secret of his desire to one day play in the Premier League. An interview with Sport1 in Germany, translated by ESPN, saw the Swiss star offer up his clearest message of intent:

"Everybody has a childhood dream, and for me it is England."

"That doesn't mean that I have to or would like to go there ... but you do have to take a look around and talk with the club."

His Write-Up in the German Press

Though there are plenty of pundits willing to offer up a view on the 23-year-old, arguably the most interesting comes from David Nienhaus of Das Sports Wort, who made a bold, if in hindsight, slightly incorrect, call as to where Xhaka's future lay during an interview with The Telegraph:

"Xhaka can succeed in the Premier League, but I think Bayern will be the next step in his career. He will be one of the best players in Europe, and he is also a very nice guy – polite and funny"

His Maddest Comparison

While plenty of Arsenal fans and pundits alike have been happy to compare Granit Xhaka to outgoing Spaniard Mikel Arteta or even Gunners great Patrick Vieira, Der Taggesspiegel journalist Sven Goldmann offered up a rather more surprising player comparison in an interview with the Evening Standard:

"He’s perhaps most comparable with a young Kevin-Prince Boateng, the way he played at Portsmouth. He might not be that fast out of the blocks but he’s so physical and powerful. He still has the technique and footballing skills to back that up though. In short he’s a complete player.

His Biggest Endorsement

Having won two league titles and a Swiss Cup together at Basel, both Shaqiri and Xhaka were tipped for big things upon their arrival in the Bundesliga. However, for former manager Fink, one definitely had the potential to outstrip the other ,with the ex-Bayern man famously quoted by The Mirror as saying:

"Xherdan Shaqiri is the best talent in Switzerland…after Xhaka”

Do you think Xhaka has the potential to become an Arsenal legend? Leave a comment with your own view below.

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Thierry Henry
Patrick Vieira
Premier League
Patrick Vieira
Gary Lineker

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