Determining the narrative arch of a story is difficult when one is looking for the climax. To go back to what the original conflict is sometimes easier, and that can help determine what the pinnacle of the story will be.
The conflict for Xherdan Shaqiri's narrative? He is not getting the playing time he anticipated two and a half years into a four year deal he signed with Bayern Munich in 2011. The eventual climax? A transfer to another club.
When plainly laid out, Shaqiri's situation is not that hard to figure out, but transfer speculation swarming like buzzards around his stagnant Bayern career makes things seem more complicated. Reporters and taboilds have linked several clubs across Europe – including Inter Milan, and Liverpool – but with the January transfer window in full swing, speculation is par for the course. Inter have reportedly tempted Shaqiri to the San Siro, but until a deal is done, his future remains up in he air.
What remains clear is that Shaqiri's future does not appear to be with Bayern. After getting significantly less minutes in his second season than his first, he is on pace to get 13 percent less playing time in his third. Factoring in the returns from injury of several key players, the Swiss international is more estranged from Bayern's starting XI than any other player in the squad.
A transfer is the way he can resolve his situation and start a new chapter somewhere else, but is that going to come in January? On the surface, where most outsiders make their observations, he appears to have several options in front of him, one that includes a loan and a sale in the summer. Whether that is a feasible conclusion to his story arch requires a real dive into the factors that can lead to a well-tied ending.
Factor 1: Skill Set and Potential
One can look at Xherdan Shaqiri in two ways. He is either a 23-year-old player who has plenty of time to turn into a world-beater, or a 23-year-old player whose prospect status has worn thin. Right now his skill set is already highly effective; he is a quick, swift-footed player who can deliver an effective pass and fire from long-range. Even with all his natural gifts, his spatial awareness and decision continues to lag behind. He has shown flashes of sheer brilliance, but it has come against mediocre opponents.
It is a skill set that has not fit into Pep Guardiola's plans thus far. Nonetheless, his contributions in just a short amount of time has raised some eyebrows. His 17 goals and 19 assists in 3719 minutes is a tremendous scoring rate, an indicator that he could be a key contributor if a manager gave him the minutes. Given a new league and a fresh opportunity, his ability to thrive in open play could flourish in the right situation, which is what is attracting suitors to Bayern's doorstep.
Factor 2: Contract and Transfer Market
Shaqiri's contract runs until June, 2016, which gives him 18 more months at Bayern until his contract expires once the transfer window opens. Even without any chatter of a contract extension, Bayern are in a good negotiating position for Shaqiri's services, especially considering the €30 million the club extracted from the Toni Kroos sale a year before his contract expired.
With rumored offers coming in left and right, Bayern appear to have a price in mind that no club has attained thus far. Is their asking price to high? Maybe, but given some of the teams interested in recent months, Bayern could extort a top return. The market for his services has to be willing to be a price Bayern is worth parting with, but club demand could very well be there this January.
Factor 3: Bayern Injuries and Depth
With several players currently injured, Bayern certainly do not have the deepest squad that their roster would suggest. Their current collection on the shelf does not include Franck Ribéry or Arjen Robben, two players who have already missed time with various injuries over the past two seasons. Given their luck with injuries, one could easily suggest to Bayern that selling one of their players would not be wise.
That said, Shaqiri found it hard to break into the side even with several players out of action. Guardiola was more inclined to advance Juan Bernat and David Alaba up the field this season rather than give the Swiss winger a shot. The odd part about the situation is Guardiola's willingness to play Shaqiri at the beginning of 2014 when Bayern went through similar injury issues. Added depth through transfer and fitness to the Robbery contingent has left Shaqiri twiddling his thumbs this time around, a sign that he is more expandable the longer Guardiola is his manager.
Factor 4: Bayern's History in the Transfer Window
When it comes to transfers, history is hard to ignore. Bayern's transfer policy has undoubtedly changed as the football transfer market has, but there are noticeable and noteworthy trends to factor in to Shaqiri's situation:
- The last player Bayern sold in the January transfer window was Martín Demichelis in 2011 (€3 million to Málaga). Over the past 30 years, Bayern have sold only 11 players in the January transfer window.
- Only one player in Pep Guardiola's six-year managerial career has been sold in the January transfer window. That was a 30-year-old Maxwell, who Barcelona sold to Paris Saint-Germain in January 2012.
- Bayern have sold six players for more than €10 million, four of which have come in the last two years. The club has never sold a player in the January transfer window for an eight-figure price tag.
- Over the past ten years, Bayern have sold 13 players aged 23 or younger. Just two of them Bayern paid a transfer fee for, while 10 of them came through their academy system. Only one, Marcel Jansen, arrived in Munich with a higher price tag attached to him (€14 million) than Shaqiri's (€11.8 million).
Many of these trends go against the logic of a transfer, but as the football market continues to evolve, so do the transfer possibilities.
Weighing the Factors
Even at his age, he still has the potential to develop into a lead contributor. That development does not appear like it will happen at Bayern, so he will eventually have to depart if he wants to get the playing time he feels he deserves. Considering Bayern's transfer history, a loan move with a sale attached seems the most plausible. If they cannot find the proper suitor, he will have to continue his struggle on the bench before getting a chance to leave over the summer.