Liverpool summer signing Xherdan Shaqiri beginning to feel at home at Anfield

The standing ovation told its own story.

Anfield is always keen – sometimes too keen – to welcome a new hero into its midst but it was difficult to argue the diminutive figure leaving the hallowed turf didn’t deserve his moment.

In just a few months at Anfield, Xherdan Shaqiri‘s moments are starting to mount up. Four assists and two goals his tally from his last six Liverpool appearances.

His latest, a lovely caressed volley in front of the Kop on Sunday, gave his team a second goal and breathing space against a Fulham side who performed better than their bottom of the table position suggested.

Goal aside, Shaqiri had been the most creative force on view all game, flourishing in a 4-2-3-1 formation which has been virtually forced upon Jurgen Klopp in order to ensure the winger’s place on the pitch.

The Swiss was viewed as the afterthought of Liverpool’s summer midfield spending, his £13.5m price tag dwarfed by the £53m needed to prise Naby Keita from RB Leipzig and the £40m which secured Fabinho’s ticket from Monaco.

Yet Shaqiri has outshone them both.

Plucked from relegated Stoke, he is bringing spark and vision to a midfield which was being criticised for a lack of both.

The 27-year-old reciprocates the appreciation he receives from the Liverpool faithful.

“It’s always nice when you get a standing ovation or the people are behind you,” explained Shaqiri.

“We have amazing fans and I scored again in front of the Kop so it was a nice feeling.  A good cross obviously from Robbo (Andy Robertson) and it was a nice finish.

“I think we wanted to make a reaction after defeat in Belgrade so it was important to keep going in the league. We scored two goals, we kept a clean sheet – maybe a little bit lucky – but it was a good win today.”

Xherdan Shaqiri celebrates after securing Liverpool’s victory over Fulham (Getty)

Liverpool suffered that defeat in Belgrade without Shaqiri, left behind on Merseyside by Jurgen Klopp so his side could concentrate on football rather than politics.

Shaqiri, born in Kosovo and with Albanian heritage, enraged Serbian fans during the World Cup by celebrating his goal against them by making an eagle symbol with his hands – the sign of an Albanian nationalist.

Despite Liverpool’s subsequent defeat to Red Star, Shaqiri backs his manager’s attempt at sporting diplomacy.

“He just wanted to concentrate on football because everybody knows what happened. There is a very hot atmosphere there and so it was better to stay at home and just concentrate on football. I was fresh, I stayed here and trained with some other players.”

The forward has been a hit at Anfield (EPA)

Shaqiri is flourishing among Liverpool’s talent-laden squad but is keen to stress that his career has been full of such quality teammates.

Stoke was, after all, preceded by spells at Inter Milan and Bayern Munich and he was a Champions League winner with the latter, albeit as an unused substitute when Jurgen Klopp’s Borussia Dortmund were defeated at Wembley.

“I played in Bayern Munich with Franck Ribery, Arjen Robben, so I knew it already! It was nothing new for me. I knew already how good these very talented players (were). We have a very good team, young team also, so our process is going very well and I’m just proud to be part of this team.

“I try to give good performances and (pay) the coach and the fans back. Bayern Munich is one of the big clubs of maybe 20 years or more and Liverpool is in a good way to also be there. You cannot compare these two clubs together. Of course Liverpool have a big, big history and Bayern Munich too. But of course the intensity at the highest level, it’s the same at Bayern Munich and Liverpool. When you want to be a top team, you have to be on the highest level to make your best performances.”

Liverpool sit second in the league (AFP/Getty)

With five starts and six appearances from the bench, Shaqiri’s next big task is to become a more regular first choice for his manager.

He is content, though, to put his faith in Klopp and let his football do the talking.

“The coach wants me to enjoy the game but also to try to make an impact and create some good chances for the team.

“I think in the end it is the coach’s decision who is playing and against who. If he decides to play you from the beginning, nice and good, but also if you are on the bench, try and come in and make an impact, it’s also good.

“In the end, only 11 players can play and we have a big squad and a good squad. Everybody has to accept the decisions of the coach and until now it’s going very good and we are in a good way.

“We have to keep going, we had maybe the best start that Liverpool had ever and we just have to keep going, to work hard every day in training and to try to take that on the game day.”

And Shaqiri is confident he will get to celebrate plenty more goals in a  Liverpool shirt. “Of course. It’s always better if you’ve got better players around you, if you can be more offensive, if you know that you are for sure going to have more possession than the opponent. But also you need to be ready to train hard every day. I’m feeling good, I’m fit, and I’m trying to give my best every time.”

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