His physical checked out. His paperwork is signed. He is now a member of Inter Milan.
On Friday, Xherdan Shaqiri penned a contract until 2019, accomplishing his migration from the Bundesliga to Serie A. He immediately got to work for his new employers, undergoing a solo training session in his new set of clothes.
.@XS_11official 's first session at Inter http://t.co/H0TkYb0mpN #FCIM pic.twitter.com/7IbekJsawf— F.C. Internazionale (@Inter_en) January 9, 2015
The Bayern Munich chapter of his career is now officially finished, with cliffhangers and loose ends dangling about. He arrived as a high-upside bishop of the flank with Champions League experience. He left as a discarded, excess pawn who overstayed his visit. His tenure was not the result of a bad acquisition though, just bad timing.
Even in hindsight, Shaqiri's €11.8 million transfer from FC Basel 1893 was not a misguided investment. Bayern had just three players able to play on the flanks: Thomas Müller, Franck Ribéry, and Arjen Robben. Even with all that world class talent, Bayern needed another able to fill the wing demand Jupp Heynckes's system relied on.
The counterfactual therefore exists suggesting how different Shaqiri's would have been if Heynckes had remained in charge. The treble-winning manager was committed to integrating the Swiss winger into Bayern's future plans, giving his new acquisition nine appearances in his first ten Bayern matches, including four starts. At that point, Shaqiri was a clear choice to help catalyze the transition from the "Robbery era", his four-year contract a perfect timeline for him to slip seamlessly into the shoes of Bayern's seasoned superstars.
The club shifted several gears that would change the course of Shaqiri's career. Bayern first recruited the services of Pep Guardiola, due to replace the already retiring Heynckes, thus bringing about a drastic change in the team's tactical structure. The club then acquired generational German talent Mario Götze, a player that Bayern would have poached from rival Borussia Dortmund even if Heynckes remained at the helm.
If those two changes were not enough, the projected declines of the Robbery contingent did not come about. While both dealt with their injury issues, each had a seasons that were arguably the best of their respective careers. No manager could reasonably drop the two if they were fit, and that left Shaqiri handcuffed to the bench. Once Götze found his footing in the side, the four-year timeline Shaqiri had fuse his future to Bayern no longer synced up with the club's long-term plans.
If Shaqiri was going to shine through any of those added variables, it was his second season, but thigh injuries wiped out a significant portion of his second season. He was unavailable for selection in 20 of the 56 matches Bayern competed in, including the period when Bayern's year-long efforts were coming to a climax.
Shaqiri had a chance to prove his worth to Guardiola, even if it came as a result of Bayern's rotten injury luck. Impressing in the 2014 Winterpause, Shaqiri received four starts in Bayern's first six matches of the Rückrunde. He only made a significant impact in one of them, scoring two goals in what ended up being a 4-0 trouncing against SC Freiburg. Ribéry's and Robben's returned to full health swatted away any opportunity for Shaqiri to receive consistent minutes to find his form, and he had to sit in the back seat once again.
When a similar opportunity rose again at the beginning of the season, Guardiola would not look in Shaqiri's direction again, a crystal-clear indicator that the Swiss international was falling out of Guardiola's plans. Juan Bernat had impressed in the preseason in the way that Shaqiri had not, form that was too obvious to ignore. Shaqiri has barely sniffed the field this season, and his ensuing departure was inevitable when the January transfer window rolled around.
Despite his 17 goals and 19 assists in a Bayern jersey, Shaqiri's choice to join Bayern at the time he did will appear as a misstep. However, the extraneous factors at play flipped the script into a different direction, and his career at Bayern maybe was not meant to be. Had the timeline been delayed, and Bayern were just now stumbling upon a 19-year-old Swiss international with on-the-ball skill and a mini-rocket for a boot, Shaqiri's integration could have matched well with what Bayern's long-term plans currently are.
Judging by his contributions to the national team, his ceiling potential is still very high, but he never would have reached it in this Bayern squad. Thus, he moves to a club starving for a talent like his, and we are left circling through scenarios in our minds, wondering what could have been if the time was just right.