Xherdan Shaqiri (Twitter)
The stocky, Kosovo-born winger
faces an uncertain club future but a breakout performance in Russia would leave
the former Bayern Munich and Inter Milan man with no shortage of suitors.
Blessed with a magnificent left
foot and ample creativity, Shaqiri became just the second Swiss player to score
a World Cup hat-trick in a 3-0 victory over Honduras in Manaus four years ago.
His penchant for the spectacular
surfaced again at Euro 2016 with a stunning overhead scissor kick against
Poland, in a last-16 game his side would eventually lose on penalties.
But while a regular in the
national team since his debut just prior to the 2010 finals in South Africa, an
inability to cement a starting place at Bayern and then Inter points to a
career that is yet to reach its apex.
At 26, the ex-Basel standout
still has time on his side but must find the right fit with his impending next
move to truly establish himself as the "Alpine Messi".
"The feeling that even a
Ronaldinho could do little in this team is sobering," Shaqiri told Swiss
magazine Schweizer Illustrieter in an unflattering assessment of Stoke before
the club was condemned to England's second tier.
"Shaqiri is a player who can
make the difference because he can decide games on his own," was how
former Swiss coach Ottmar Hitzfeld described the two-time Bundesliga champion
and 2013 Champions League winner at the last World Cup.
The expectations will again be
high for a player with 20 goals in 68 international appearances as Switzerland
look to show their world ranking of sixth is more than just a result of shrewd