There are some players who depart a team still young and full of promise yet knowing they did not show their true potential. Others depart knowing that some fans will probably forget they were even a part of the team in a few years, such was the lack of impact they had (or the short opportunity they were afforded). Others depart with fans simply scratching their heads, wondering where it all went wrong. Xherdan Shaqiri is the type of player that falls under all of these categories.
When Mancini returned to Inter this past season, President Thohir promised to back him in the January transfer market. His biggest statement of intent was the arrival of Shaqiri from Bayern Munich. He was coming off a series of big performances for his national team during the Wold Cup, and wanted more playing time than the German side could give him. Though a number of sides were pursuing him (and some were even offering more money than the Nerazzurri), Bayern accepted Inter's offer due in part to the player's desire to join Mancini and the club's project.
Shaq (as he was often referred to here) was supposed to help solve Mancini's attacking width problem on the team, and at first the 23 year old was playing on the wings in a 4231 formation. But with Mancini's other January signing Lukas Podolski not playing up to expectations on the other wing, the formation had to be changed. The team then began to line up in a 4312 with Shaqiri playing in the hole behind the two strikers. While the Swiss international player wasn't exactly lighting up the pitch he was playing fairly well at first, scoring goals against Atalanta and Celtic.
Then Mancini decided to give Hernanes a chance at playing in Shaqiri's role in April. Hernanes took the opportunity with both hands, keeping Shaqiri out of the starting lineup for all of the remaining matches except for against Juventus. Mancini said that Shaq's playing time was being limited because he needed to work on getting his fitness levels up, and it seemed like Shaqiri's time would come, just not immediately.
When the season ended it looked like the new spine of the team would be built around Icardi, Kovacic, and Shaqiri, with Handanovic looking like he would be on the chopping block. But with a number of new players arriving and Handa agreeing to a new contract, somebody else needed to go, and Shaq was one of the most sellable assets. After being looked at by a number of clubs (including Everton, Dortmund, and Schalke) Shaqiri eventually agreed to a move to Stoke City. This came after he rejected offers from other clubs and management eventually had to go public to tell players not to keep refusing transfers.
This transfer leaves Inter fans with a lot of questions. What made this move so necessary that the club basically pushed him out the door? Was this move simply about reducing the squad size/selling a profitable asset? Was there some sort of falling out between Mancini and Shaqiri? We might get answers to the questions, and we might not. All we can do is accept the transfer and move on.
Though many might see Stoke City as a major step down Shaqiri joins an ambitious side that has made a number of promising young signings including former Barcelona players Bojan and Ibrahim Afellay. We wish Shaqiri the best of luck and hope he can find success at his new club.
Sidenote #1: Inter sold Shaqiri for €17m after getting him from Bayern for €15m. Though it looks like the club made a profit in this deal there are rumors that the original transfer had a clause that sees Bayern get a chunk of the money from the Inter to Stoke sale. The exact details of this are unknown.
Sidenote #2: With Shaqiri gone the club was supposed to go after Perisic but after their Sporting Director said none of the interested clubs (aka Inter) can afford the Croatian international, Inter might be looking into other options.