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    Tuesday, 3 November 2020

    Klopp happy to have Xherdan Shaqiri back after 'massive impact'

    After being out-of-favour, Shaqiri is turning out to be a vital squad member for Jurgen Klopp this season

    Jurgen Klopp backs Xherdan Shaqiri to succeed at Anfield this season.

    Of all the players on the fringe of Liverpool 's first-team this summer, the Switzerland international looked the most likely to move on - and with good reason.

    In the prime of his career, having turned 29 three weeks ago, Shaqiri was linked with a transfer away from Anfield, having played seven times in the Premier League last season, which included just seven minutes post-lockdown.

    Opting to stay and fight for his place in Jurgen Klopp 's side this season, the left-footed playmaker has went on to prove himself 'vital' in all recent outings, even culminating in an exquisite assist for Diogo Jota's winner against West Ham on Saturday night.

    Liverpool manager Jurgen  Klopp admitted on his post-match conference that though Shaqiri had endured a difficult two years on Merseyside, his role in the first-team squad now is crucial.

    "Shaq has played an incredibly important role after a difficult time, and is important to us,' said the Reds boss.

    "Shaq is a versatile offensive player. He has played for us as an 8, on the wing, and a 10 when he came on (against West Ham). That's all the positions he can play.

    "He is a really good player and has made a massive impact in pretty much all of the games he has played. He was part of some of the biggest games in our recent history. I'm just happy to have him back."

    It is no exaggeration when Klopp refers to Shaqiri's often understated role in some of the biggest moments in the past two years, since he signed for £13.5m from Stoke City in the summer of 2018.

    A match-winning double from the bench against Manchester United in December 2018 - their first league win over their arch-rivals in over four years - illustrated the key role Shaqiri could play in attack for the Reds, despite being unable to usurp the trusted front-trio of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino.

    But it was two inch-perfect crosses in the space of four days in May 2019 which showed how effective Shaqiri, irrespective of a lack of minutes in the legs, could be in the long-term.

    In desperate need of a goal to keep their title challenge alive at Newcastle, Shaqiri whipped in a stunning free-kick on the head of Divock Origi to score the winner - and take what would turn out to be a forlorn Premier League pursuit down to the last day.

    But it will be Shaqiri's cross from the left at Anfield against Barcelona which will go down in history. Spotting Gini Wijnaldum all alone in the penalty area, the pace and flight of the ball was perfect for the flying Dutchman to head home, in one of the most memorable moments in Liverpool's history.

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