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The Gladbach captain made his 2016 debut for Die Fohlen vs Hamburg after serving a three-match ban for a red card given in Gladbach’s final game of the Hinrunde vs Darmstadt.
In the lead up to this match, much of the discussion regarding Granit Xhaka revolved around not only this much anticipated start but also speculation of interest of late by Manchester City and a sort of “come and get me” plea in an interview with the German newspaper, Bild.
This comes after being constantly linked on prospective transfer moves to Arsenal, Liverpool and Bayern Munich.
Granit Xhaka has long caught the eye of many of Europe’s heavyweights, ever since he broke through with his hometown club, FC Basel in Switzerland. The Kosovo-born Swiss midfielder debuted for Basel at 17 and impressed for them in his two years at senior level.
His most notable performance came in UEFA Champions League group matches against Manchester United.
Xhaka signed with Borussia Monchengladbach in the July 2012. Though he had trouble securing a first team spot his first year, the following two seasons he has really blossomed into a great deep-lying playmaker, developing a formidable central midfield partnership with Bayer Leverkusen-loanee, Christoph Kramer.
After a rough start to the 2015-16 campaign, Gladbach went on an incredible run losing only one in a 15-match span across all competitions. During this period, new manager Andre Schubert installed Xhaka as captain to help spearhead a new up-tempo high pressing attacking style.
His performances of late prior to the winter break has shown that he can perfect fit in the Premier League, especially for a Liverpool, Arsenal or City under Pep wanting to play a higher intensity possession-based system.
On the pitch, he’s a hard-nosed central midfielder who has a range of physical, mental and technical attributes that combine to make him a very complete central midfielder. He’s a determined ball-winner known for his aggression, one with enough strength to keep opponents off the ball, and he possesses good tackling technique.
On the ball, Xhaka has a great passing range and is proficient with both feet.
He can spray the ball around at will—over short or long distances—and has good control. And critically for a player of his position, he also has a good mind for the game; his vision and decision-making are excellent.
A young Schweini
His former boss for the Swiss national team, Ottmar Hitzfeld, once compared to Xhaka to a young Bastian Schweinsteiger. In fact, like Schweinsteiger, Xhaka started as a winger at youth level, but eventually changed to central midfielder.
Much like Schweinsteiger, Xhaka isn’t a prolific goalscorer, but he has a cannon of a left foot. He’s a real threat from distance, and he has scored some stunning free-kicks in his day. He isn’t afraid to take penalties, and despite not exactly being a pillar, he has scored from headers on more than one occasion this season.
On February 11, Under Armour announced that Granit Xhaka has joined their now ever-growing talented roster of athletes.
In the press release, Xhaka said, “I feel my young, dynamic spirit is a perfect fit with Under Armour and I am very excited to use their innovative products to add even more control to my game. I look forward to taking my game to the next level, as I still have so much more that I want to achieve.”
This could follow the same script as Memphis Depay, as he signed with Under Armour prior to his move to Manchester United from PSV Eindhoven last summer.
On the way out?
With Pep Guardiola now confirmed to be manager at City commencing at the end of the season along with Jurgen Klopp now pacing the sidelines at Anfield, many of talented Europe’s talented young midfielders have been linked to a move to the Premier League.
Granit Xhaka could well be one of these first big money signings…
Written by Vic Charnetsky
Follow Vic on Twitter @VanDerCharks
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