From playing street football as a child in Switzerland to becoming a two-time world champion in the club game in December, Xherdan Shaqiri has travelled a fascinating career path.

And, earlier this year before the suspension of the Premier League due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the forward sat down with Liverpoolfc.com to reflect on his journey to Anfield, his successes with the Reds since arriving in 2018 and much more…

Shaqiri was in the starting line-up for the Champions League semi-final second leg against Barcelona last May as a Liverpool side deprived of Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah sought to overturn a 3-0 deficit. After one of the greatest ever European performances at Anfield, they reached a second consecutive final with a 4-0 win…

“It was an unbelievable comeback. Nobody thought we were going to come back. To be honest, we always believe. The situation when we came into the dressing room at half-time you thought, ‘OK, let’s finish well’ because it was just 1-0. To be honest, I never thought we were going to win the game 4-0 in the end, but if you score the second one you start believing. It was momentum; I think if we played 20 minutes more we were going to score two more goals. It was just amazing. The fans behind us helped us a lot. It was an unbelievable comeback that we’ll never forget.”

It was the No.23’s pinpoint cross that teed up Georginio Wijnaldum to level the tie on aggregate at the Kop end, before Trent Alexander-Arnold caught everyone by surprise – including Shaqiri, who thought he was going to take the corner himself – with an unexpected delivery to allow Divock Origi to send Liverpool to Madrid…

“Of course, I have the quality for crosses and good crosses. For giving assists, too. At that moment it was a perfect ball between two defenders and Gini was there perfectly [for Liverpool’s third goal]. It was a nice goal and an important goal obviously. For Trent’s corner, I thought we were swapping. I was on the way to go, I was looking at the ground and he just played it fast. I saw the ball inside the goal and we celebrated. It was amazing instinct.”

Jürgen Klopp’s side went on to lift the European Cup courtesy of a 2-0 victory against Tottenham Hotspur at Estadio Metropolitano, where Shaqiri was on the bench, before returning to Liverpool to parade the trophy for hundreds of thousands of fans across the city…

“It was an unbelievable year for us. It was a shame we didn’t win the league but it was amazing to get the Champions League title again for Liverpool. For me, the second time. You never forget these kinds of feelings, these kinds of trophies you win with the team. And to celebrate with the fans, after a long time they could celebrate something big in the city, was just amazing. The potential for this team is very high, I think we can go as high as possible. But we need to stay on our toes and to be on our highest level to be really very, very successful.”

The Reds would clutch two more trophies before 2019 was through. UEFA Super Cup success in Istanbul in August was followed by a maiden FIFA Club World Cup triumph, Firmino’s extra-time goal defeating Flamengo in December’s final. For Shaqiri, it was the second time he had reached the summit of the club game, having won the prize with Bayern Munich six years earlier…

“To be honest, I never thought I would do this kind of career. Sometimes I tell my family, ‘Look where I played, look how many trophies I won.’ It’s just incredible. You cannot have that every day, or not everyone can say they won the Champions League twice with two different teams, twice a world champion, many titles with Bayern Munich in Germany and in Switzerland too with Basel. It’s just amazing, it’s like a dream how I live every day. And I enjoy it, that’s my thing – to stay grounded and enjoy it on my own with my family and my people around who are very proud of what I achieved until now. And I want to give this to this club too, my experience, what I did with big clubs. That can only be a positive.”

Shaqiri honed his football skills on the streets of Switzerland, where his family had moved from Kosovo when he was four years old. It was at a park a five-minute walk from his home – in ‘the really bad part of town where the really good football was’ as he once described it – where the young Xherdan would put his potential to the test, amid rather challenging circumstances…

“Obviously it is a different time now, we are professional now. At that time in the tough parks and tough pitches it was different because it was private, it was on the street. Everything can happen on the street, sometimes people fighting in front of your eyes. It was tough to play because I was very young and not the biggest or the tallest. I was always challenging against all the people and that helped me a lot to grow up and be competitive against bigger and taller people, older people. I learned a lot there: to challenge, to be successful, to win games. Everything started there. So it helped me a lot.

“Maybe it helped me become more skilful because people who play a lot on the streets are always more skilful, I think, because they play more on instinct. I’m kind of this player, of course, who plays with a lot of instinct – like from zero to make a great pass or score a nice goal. That comes from the street, for sure, too. The times change a lot and now kids have PlayStations, iPhones and can sit at home playing these games on their phone. It’s changing. Maybe 15 years ago it was different, 20 years ago. I’m really happy that I went through this time. I learned a lot. I know how it is to have not such a beautiful or good life like now, so it helps me a lot.”

On the rare occasions when Shaqiri was watching the game rather than playing it, he was fascinated by the exploits of one of the superstars of the 1990s. Brazil’s Ronaldo was terrorising defences for club and country with his searing pace, dizzying footwork and serene finishing – and inspiring a generation as he did so…

“I liked him, his style and how he was playing was so amazing. He was my big, big idol. I did his haircut too – in 2002, the triangle – I did it, too. Everybody was shocked in school when I went to school with this haircut. But I loved him and I still love him. He is my big idol. I wish I could meet him. I was not really copying him, because every player is so different and has different specialities and different talents. But he was my big hero back in the day. When he lost against France in the [1998 World Cup] final, I was crying at home. He was my big idol.”

These days, Shaqiri’s achievements during a career that has taken him from FC Basel to Bayern Munich, Inter Milan, Stoke City and now Liverpool – as well as 82 caps and 22 goals for the Switzerland national team – make him a respected figure in his own right…

“I see the respect all around the world. They know what I achieved, that’s pretty much all I can say. Everywhere I go they know me as a player, they know I played in different teams, they know I won many titles – that’s something you appreciate and respect so much. I love that the people recognise what you achieved and that they respect you. Maybe sometimes it’s over-respect, but it’s amazing. It means a lot to me that they respect me as a person first of all and as a player, too.

“There are Liverpool fans everywhere. Especially in Switzerland, we have a lot; around the world; also in Albania and Kosovo, people going crazy. They were Liverpool fans a long time ago too but still, when I came to Liverpool, even more you know. That’s pretty normal; everywhere I went people were becoming fans of this team, we even have a lot of Stoke fans now from Switzerland because of me. It’s nice to see because people can change a lot and can make many people in different countries very proud. That’s why I appreciate it and I respect it all the time.”

The 28-year-old is currently part of a cosmopolitan, connected Reds squad making history under the guidance of Klopp; a group that cites its oft-evidenced togetherness as fundamental to the successes of recent seasons; one in which Shaqiri sees friends wherever he looks inside the dressing room…

“To be honest, I’m very nice with everybody, it’s not like I’m really close with somebody. I like to be nice with everybody and joke with everybody. Of course, the people who speak German I speak [to] more a little bit. But it’s not that I don’t want to speak English, it’s pretty normal because they played in Germany. Or helping Minamino, you know – he speaks better German than English. It’s different in England. He needs to get used to the life here in England, too. If he needs something we are here and we help him. He has already integrated very well and I hope he can enjoy it here. We have quite a few who speak German so sometimes we just speak German. But it’s not that I stay with one guy, I like to be nice with everybody and can have fun with everybody. That’s also important for the team – to be like a team and not groups. That’s very good for us. We have fun all together and we win all together, we are like a small family and that’s very important. That’s why we are very successful also.

“We have a lot of good players, it doesn’t matter who plays – we saw that many times. We don’t have to show that to everybody anymore because we have a quality group, a good team. Who plays or who replaces, it doesn’t matter – the quality is still there. Competition is important for the team and for the group to be more successful, to push each other and to make better performances and to be on the highest level. It’s very healthy competition.”

Premier League football is, of course, currently suspended as the world battles the COVID-19 pandemic. When it is safe for the game to return, Shaqiri will set about fulfilling a desire for silverware that has not yet been wholly satisfied despite the enviable collection of medals he possesses…

“Everybody wants to achieve as much as possible, but I’m also very happy with what I achieved until now because I’m coming from a small country and coming from the street. I cannot complain. But I always try to stay grounded and stay myself and just be happy with what we’ve got. Slowly, slowly of course everybody wants to achieve as much as possible. The Premier League title is especially very important for this club and for a lot of players here because not a lot of players won titles. It’s very important for them too. For a few years it was always coming, coming and playing well, but no title. This big club needs to fight every year for the title. It seems like the winning mentality is here now and trying to stay at the top is very important, and difficult. That’s the most important challenge for this club, I think.”

Liverpool's season so far: February