Former Basel coach Heiko Vogel believes Granit Xhaka was the best player he saw at Basel, surpassing even Xherdan Shaqiri and Mohamed Salah.
Xhaka is among the many talented players who have come through the Swiss giants in the last decade, featuring in the first team for two seasons before moving on to Borussia Monchengladbach and later, Arsenal.
He came through the first team a year after Shaqiri, who had already set a high bar according to Vogel, following a season in which the current Liverpool man played a huge role in helping Basel secure the domestic double.
And it is understanding that high bar Shaqiri set that Vogel believes is key to understanding why he considers Xhaka the best he saw at the Swiss club.
“Granit Xhaka,” Vogel said when asked by Goal and SPOX who the most impressive player during his time at Basel was."You have to know the context. Xherdan Shaqiri came up with an incredible amount of hype, was instantly integrated and did a great job.
“In the first championship year, it was incredibly close. On the last matchday we had an away game at Young Boys, which was for the title.
“Shaqiri played as a left-back against Seydou Doumbia, who had scored over 30 goals this season. Shaq completely contained him and had an outstanding game.
“So he was mega-impressive, even in the Manchester United game. The self-understanding he has played there was unbelievable. Experienced players like [Patrice] Evra bounced off him. He also assisted both goals against United.”
And despite that track record from Shaqiri, which included Swiss League titles in all three of his seasons, Xhaka managed to impress Vogel with his leadership from the first moment he saw him.
“That was the time when Granit became a Under-17 world champion,” Vogel said. “It was an international break and we had a coupe of friendlies with Basel. Granit entered in the 70th minute. In the 75th he gets the ball, moves a few metres and sends the ball from 25 meters with a cross.
“I still remember how I sat in the bus afterwards and thought: You're talking about Shaqiri? Xhaka is better.
“That was the beginning of my personal love for him. Granit was incredibly clear at the age of 18 in his actions and his views. He was a natura-born Leader. Also Momo [Salah] was impressive - in a different way.”
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