Xherdan Shaqiri has been dropped from Liverpool’s Champions League squad that will face Serbian side Red Star Belgrade tomorrow night. The decision has been made by manager Jurgen Klopp, due to Shaqiri’s Kosovan-Albanian heritage, which could provoke Red Star’s supporters due to historic conflicts between Serbia and Kosovo.
Xherdan Shaqiri made huge headlines during last summer’s FIFA World Cup, when he and Switzerland teammate Granit Xhaka made Albanian nationalist hand symbols, during a victory over Serbia. The pair were fined around £7000 for their controversial celebrations, but when Liverpool were drawn against Serbian club Red Star Belgrade in the group stages of this year’s Champions League, Shaqiri’s actions were once again thrust under the spotlight.
Despite claims that he was willing to make the trip to Belgrade, Liverpool have opted to drop Shaqiri from their squad for tomorrow’s match, to avoid inflaming the home crowd.
“It’s a situation where we will go to the fantastic city of Belgrade as a football team to play football,” said Jurgen Klopp. “We have heard and read the speculation and talk about what kind of reception Shaq would receive and although we have no idea what would happen, we want to go there and be focused 100 per cent on football and not have to think about anything else, that’s all.
“We are Liverpool FC, a big club, a football team but we don’t have any message further than that. We have no political message, absolutely not. We want the focus to be on a great game of football, free from anything else.” he added.
“We are keen to be respectful and keen to avoid any distractions that would take focus away from a 90-minute-plus contest that is important for football and only football.
“So for that reason, Shaq is not involved and he accepts and understands this. Shaq is our player, we love him, and he will play for us a lot of times, but not on Tuesday.”
Xherdan Shaqiri has made a positive impact for Liverpool in both the Premier League and Champions League this season, making a total of 10 appearances for the club across all competitions. The 27-year-old made a late cameo in Liverpool’s recent 1-1 draw with Arsenal, and is expected to be included in Jurgen Klopp’s squad for the Reds’ upcoming league fixture against Fulham next weekend.