Granit Xhaka

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Granit Xhaka
SWE-SWI (18) (cropped).jpg
Xhaka playing for Switzerland at the 2018 FIFA World Cup
Personal information
Full name Granit Xhaka[1]
Date of birth (1992-09-27) 27 September 1992 (age 28)[2]
Place of birth Basel, Switzerland
Height 1.85 m (6 ft 1 in)[3]
Playing position(s) Midfielder
Club information
Current team
Arsenal
Number 34
Youth career
2000–2002 Concordia Basel
2002–2010 Basel
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
2010–2012 Basel 42 (1)
2012–2016 Borussia Mönchengladbach 108 (6)
2016– Arsenal 136 (8)
National team
2008–2009 Switzerland U17 14 (1)
2009–2010 Switzerland U18 14 (0)
2010–2011 Switzerland U19 10 (3)
2010–2011 Switzerland U21 5 (0)
2011– Switzerland 87 (12)
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only and correct as of 23:55, 25 October 2020 (UTC)
‡ National team caps and goals correct as of 13 October 2020

Granit Xhaka (Albanian pronunciation: [ɡɾaˈnit ˈdʒaka]; born 27 September 1992) is a Swiss professional footballer who plays as a midfielder for Premier League club Arsenal and captains the Switzerland national team.

Xhaka began his career at hometown club Basel, winning the Swiss Super League in each of his first two seasons. He then moved to Bundesliga team Borussia Mönchengladbach in 2012, developing a reputation as a technically gifted player and natural leader alongside criticism for his temperament.[4] He was made captain of Borussia Mönchengladbach in 2015 at the age of 22, leading the team to UEFA Champions' League qualification for a second successive season.[5] He completed a high-profile transfer to Arsenal in May 2016 for a fee in the region of £30 million.[6]

Xhaka was part of the Swiss team that won the 2009 FIFA U-17 World Cup. He made his senior debut in 2011 and has won over 80 caps, representing the nation at the FIFA World Cup in 2014 and 2018, and at UEFA Euro 2016.

In 2018, Xhaka was the eighth most Googled personality in Switzerland.[7]

Early life[edit]

Granit Xhaka was born on 27 September 1992 in the city of Basel, Switzerland into an Albanian family from Podujevo, then part of the SFR Yugoslavia, now Kosovo.[8][9][10][11][12] His father Ragip was a political prisoner. At the age of 22, as a student at University of Pristina, he was arrested for participating in a 1986 student demonstration against the central government in Belgrade, and served three and a half years of a six-year prison sentence before being released in 1990.[13][14] Their family moved from Podujevo, District of Pristina to Switzerland that year.[15][16][17]

His older brother, Taulant Xhaka, is a professional footballer and plays for Basel and the Albania national team.

Club career[edit]

The brothers started their youth football by Concordia Basel and both moved to Basel in 2002. Xhaka played for various Basel youth teams and since 2008 has been a member of the U-21 squad. Between 2008 and 2010, he played 37 games for the U-21 team, scoring eleven goals.[18]

Basel[edit]

Former Basel coach Thorsten Fink once said. "Xherdan Shaqiri is the best talent in Switzerland...after Granit Xhaka."[19] Whilst the Swiss National Football Coach, Ottmar Hitzfeld, has dubbed him the 'young Schweinsteiger.'[19]

Since the beginning of the 2010–11 season, Xhaka played for the Basel first team. He made his first team debut in the third qualifying round of the 2010–11 UEFA Champions League in the away match against Debrecen in the Szusza Ferenc Stadium. Towards the end of the match, he scored the second goal in Basel's 2–0 victory. He scored his first Super League goal in the 5–1 home win against FC Thun on 15 May 2011.[20] At the end of the 2010–11 season, Xhaka won the Super League Championship title with Basel and at the end of the 2011–12 season he won the Double, the League Championship title[21] and the Swiss Cup[22] with the club.

Borussia Mönchengladbach[edit]

Xhaka playing for Borussia Mönchengladbach in 2015

On 18 May 2012, Basel announced on their homepage that Xhaka had agreed terms with Lucien Favre's Borussia Mönchengladbach. After medical checks were completed, Xhaka signed a five-year deal with the club. The transfer fee was not disclosed by Mönchengladbach, but is estimated to be in the region of €8.5 million.[23]

Xhaka made his debut in a DFB-Pokal first round match against Alemannia Aachen on 18 August 2012. Three days later, he made his first appearance in European competition for Borussia in 1–3 home lost to Dynamo Kyiv in qualification for the 2012–13 UEFA Champions League. On 25 August, he made his Bundesliga debut in the team's opening match of the season, a 2–1 home win against 1899 Hoffenheim. He scored his first and only goal of the season in a 3–2 loss at 1. FC Nürnberg.[24]

In his second season at the club, Xhaka started 29 times and made five substitute appearances as Gladbach finished in sixth place in the 2014–15 Bundesliga.[24]

In 2014–15, Xhaka started all 34 2014–15 Bundesliga matches for Borussia[24] and was named in the league's team of the season.[25] Borussia finished in third place to qualify for the 2015–16 UEFA Champions League.

On 23 September 2015, Xhaka captained Borussia and scored his first goal of the season, heading in from Raffael's free kick in a 4–2 win over FC Augsburg. In the next match, against VfB Stuttgart, Xhaka again captained the side and scored a goal in a 3–1 win. On 30 September, he made his first appearance for Borussia in the Champions League proper in a 1–2 group stage loss at home to Manchester City.[24] Xhaka received his fifth red card for the team in his 95th game on 20 December, for striking his opponent in the first half; he voluntarily gave €20,000 to charity as an apology.[26]

Arsenal[edit]

Xhaka playing for Arsenal in 2018

On 25 May 2016, Arsenal signed Xhaka from Borussia Mönchengladbach for a fee of around £30–35 million.[27] Xhaka made his first appearance for Arsenal (as a half-time substitution) in a 2–1 win against the MLS All-Stars.[28]

Xhaka made his competitive debut for Arsenal in the club's opening match of the 2016–17 Premier League season, a 4–3 defeat to Liverpool, replacing midfielder Mohamed Elneny in the 65th minute while also picking up a yellow card in the process.[29] His first goal for the club came on 17 September 2016, a 25-yard thunderbolt in a 4–1 Premier League victory against Hull City.[30] Four days later, he would score again from distance, this time from 30 yards in a 4–0 EFL Cup defeat of Nottingham Forest.[31] Xhaka's first Arsenal red card – and eighth for club and country since April 2014 – came in a 3–2 win over Swansea City on 15 October 2016.[32] On 22 January 2017, Xhaka was sent off for the second time in the season, by referee Jon Moss, in Arsenal's 2–1 home win against Burnley.[33] After his first goal for the club in September, he would not score in the Premier League again until doing so in May, scoring the first goal of a 2–0 victory over Manchester United, ending United's run of 25 consecutive games unbeaten.[34]

Xhaka went on to feature throughout Arsenal's triumphant FA Cup campaign. As so he started in the Cup final against Chelsea which the Gunners won 2–1.[35] Xhaka also played in the 2017 Community Shield that Arsenal won on penalties over Chelsea.[36] His first goal of the 2017–18 season came in a 3–3 draw with Liverpool, Xhaka scored a 25-yard thunderbolt to take Arsenal from 2–1 to 2–2.[37]

On 15 September 2018, Xhaka scored the first goal, from a direct free kick, in a 2–1 victory against Newcastle United.[38] On 28 October 2018, he scored again from a free kick against Crystal Palace.[39]

On 27 September 2019, Arsenal manager Unai Emery confirmed that Xhaka will be the new captain for the Gunners, replacing Laurent Koscielny.[40]

In the match against Crystal Palace at Emirates Stadium on 27 October 2019, Xhaka was at the center of criticism after being substituted off in the 61st minute.[41] The incident began when a portion of Arsenal fans started to cheer when his name was called to be replaced. He was booed as he walked off the pitch, and responded by making several sarcastic gestures and angrily saying "fuck off" twice to the fans who jeered his name. He also removed his jersey before walking straight down the tunnel.[42] Xhaka's actions were met with significant criticism after the match, and manager Unai Emery described Xhaka's conduct as "wrong".[43][44] Emery also suggested that Xhaka should apologise.[45] On 30 October 2019 the club announced that Xhaka would be offered counselling.[46] Arsenal later tweeted an explanation from Xhaka about the incident.[47] On 5 November 2019, just a month and a week after his announcement as captain, Xhaka was stripped of the captain's armband. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang took over as the captain after previously serving as vice captain.[48][49]

After this incident, Xhaka began a hiatus from the first team squad and it was deemed highly likely that Xhaka would leave Arsenal in the upcoming January transfer window.[50] However, under the tenure of new manager Mikel Arteta, Xhaka was reintroduced into the team as a key player and saw a sharp uptake in his form for the club and slowly began to win over the fans with whom he had previously had an oft fractious relationship.[51][52] Xhaka credited Arteta for this resurgence, claiming 'He [Arteta] turned me around and gave me a second chance and he showed me he trusted me and I tried to give him everything back.'[53] On 1 August 2020, Xhaka was selected to start in the FA Cup Final against Chelsea, and went on to win his second winners' medal as Arsenal won their 14th FA Cup.[54]

International career[edit]

Switzerland youth squads[edit]

Xhaka has played for Swiss youth squad at the U-17 level. He participated in the Under-17 World Cup in 2009 in Nigeria. The Swiss team won the World Cup.[55]

He played his first game for the Switzerland national under-19 football team on 25 May 2010, as a substitute, as the team beat Austria national under-19 football team 3–2 in the Schwaz, Austria. He scored his first goal for the U-19 on 7 September 2010 as the team won 3–0 against the Czech Republic.

Switzerland under-21[edit]

Xhaka played his first game for the under-21 side on 3 September 2010, as a substitute, as the team beat the Republic of Ireland 1–0 at the Cornaredo Stadium in Lugano.[56] This was the last game in the qualification Group 2 to the 2011 UEFA European Under-21 Football Championship. Xhaka was member of the Swiss U-21 squad that competed in the final tournament, hosted by Denmark, between 11 and 25 June 2011. The Swiss team reached the final without conceding a goal, but lost to Spain 2–0.

Switzerland senior team[edit]

Xhaka playing for Switzerland in 2012

Before making his international debut for Switzerland, Xhaka was still undecided whether to play for his birth country or Albania, and he complained to the Albanian sports media that FSHF was ignoring him while the Swiss Football Association was showing much more interest.[57]

Xhaka debuted for Switzerland at Wembley Stadium against England in a 2–2 UEFA Euro 2012 qualification draw on 4 June 2011.[58] On 15 November 2011, during his sixth international appearance, he scored his first international goal in the 1–0 away win against Luxembourg at the Stade Josy Barthel.[59]

Switzerland also tried to select Xhaka to participate in the 2012 Olympic Football tournament, but he opted to stay at his new club for pre-season training.[60] He participated in all ten of Switzerland's 2014 FIFA World Cup qualification campaign matches, scoring both goals in a 2–0 defeat of Slovenia.[61] On 2 June 2014, Xhaka was named in Switzerland's 2014 World Cup squad by national coach Ottmar Hitzfeld.[62] In the team's second match, Xhaka scored in a 5–2 loss to France.[63]

Xhaka was selected for Euro 2016, where Switzerland's campaign opened against Albania in Lens. Xhaka, whose team won 1–0, was playing against his brother Taulant. He was voted the man of the match.[64] Xhaka played every minute of Switzerland's campaign, which ended in the round of 16 with a loss to Poland at the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard; after a 1–1 draw he was the only player to not score in the penalty shootout, shooting wide.[65]

Ahead of the 2018 World Cup qualifiers, there was speculation that Xhaka could switch his allegiance to represent Kosovo, which had been accepted as a full member of FIFA and were allowed to play competitive matches for the first time. Xhaka, however, published an open letter stating that his participation in Euro 2016 had disqualified him from changing his allegiance, and he was thus tied to Switzerland.[66]

Xhaka was named in manager Vladimir Petković's 23-man Swiss squad for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia.[67] On 22 June, he equalised with a long-range strike as the Swiss came from behind to defeat Serbia 2–1 in their second game. He and fellow goalscorer Xherdan Shaqiri, who is also of Kosovar descent, celebrated their goals by making an eagle gesture resembling the double headed eagle of the Albanian flag.[68][69][70][71] FIFA fined each player 10,000 Swiss francs "for unsporting behaviour contrary to the principles of fair-play".[72][73]

Xhaka was appointed as a temporary captain by Vladimir Petković in the absence of Stephan Lichtsteiner, which caused him to be criticised by former Swiss international Stéphane Henchoz, who claimed that Xhaka could not properly represent Switzerland due to his Albanian heritage, instead suggesting that Lichtsteiner, Yann Sommer, or Fabian Schär serve as captain.[74] In September 2019, Xhaka offered his captaincy to Xherdan Shaqiri in an effort to get him to return to the national side.[75]

Personal life[edit]

In July 2017, Xhaka married his long-term partner, Leonita Lekaj.[76]

Career statistics[edit]

Club[edit]

As of match played 29 October 2020[77]
Appearances and goals by club, season and competition
Club Season League National Cup League Cup Europe Other Total
Division Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals
Basel 2010–11 Swiss Super League 19 1 2 0 0 0 5 1 0 0 26 2
2011–12 Swiss Super League 23 0 4 0 0 0 8 0 0 0 35 0
Total 42 1 6 0 0 0 13 1 0 0 61 2
Borussia Mönchengladbach 2012–13 Bundesliga 22 1 2 0 0 0 9 0 0 0 33 1
2013–14 Bundesliga 28 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 29 0
2014–15 Bundesliga 30 2 3 0 0 0 9 3 0 0 42 5
2015–16 Bundesliga 28 3 3 0 0 0 5 0 0 0 36 3
Total 108 6 9 0 0 0 23 3 0 0 140 9
Arsenal 2016–17 Premier League 32 2 5 0 2 1 7 1 0 0 46 4
2017–18 Premier League 38 1 0 0 3 1 6 1 1 0 48 3
2018–19 Premier League 29 4 1 0 1 0 9 0 0 0 40 4
2019–20 Premier League 31 1 6 0 0 0 4 0 0 0 41 1
2020–21 Premier League 6 0 0 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 9 0
Total 136 8 12 0 7 2 27 2 2 0 184 12
Career total 286 15 27 0 7 2 63 6 2 0 385 23

International[edit]

As of match played 13 October 2020[78]
Appearances and goals by national team and year
National team Year Apps Goals
Switzerland 2011 6 1
2012 9 2
2013 8 1
2014 10 1
2015 6 1
2016 11 0
2017 9 2
2018 13 2
2019 10 2
2020 5 0
Total 87 12
As of match played 18 November 2019. Switzerland score listed first, score column indicates score after each Xhaka goal.[18]
List of international goals scored by Granit Xhaka
No. Date Venue Opponent Score Result Competition
1 15 November 2011 Stade Josy Barthel, Luxembourg City, Luxembourg  Luxembourg 1–0 1–0 Friendly
2 15 August 2012 Stadion Poljud, Split, Croatia  Croatia 1–0 4–2
3 7 September 2012 Stožice Stadium, Ljubljana, Slovenia  Slovenia 1–0 2–0 2014 FIFA World Cup qualification
4 15 October 2013 Stade de Suisse, Bern, Switzerland  Slovenia 1–0 1–0
5 20 June 2014 Itaipava Arena Fonte Nova, Salvador, Brazil  France 2–5 2–5 2014 FIFA World Cup
6 27 March 2015 Swissporarena, Lucerne, Switzerland  Estonia 2–0 3–0 UEFA Euro 2016 qualification
7 9 June 2017 Tórsvøllur, Tórshavn, Faroe Islands  Faroe Islands 1–0 2–0 2018 FIFA World Cup qualification
8 7 October 2017 St. Jakob-Park, Basel, Switzerland  Hungary 1–0 5–2
9 27 March 2018 Swissporarena, Lucerne, Switzerland  Panama 2–0 6–0 Friendly
10 22 June 2018 Kaliningrad Stadium, Kaliningrad, Russia  Serbia 1–1 2–1 2018 FIFA World Cup
11 26 March 2019 St. Jakob-Park, Basel, Switzerland  Denmark 2–0 3–3 UEFA Euro 2020 qualification
12 18 November 2019 Victoria Stadium, Gibraltar  Gibraltar 6–1 6–1

Honours[edit]

Basel

Arsenal

Switzerland U17

Switzerland U21

Individual

References[edit]

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