LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Monday, December 9, 2019: Liverpool's Xherdan Shaqiri during a training session at Melwood Training Ground ahead of the UEFA Champions League Group E match between FC Salzburg and Liverpool FC. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The Xherdan Shaqiri mystery continues with winger “not close” to returning

Xherdan Shaqiri has played just 10 times for Liverpool this season, amounting to 256 minutes, with persistent injuries ensuring he is “not close” to a return.

The campaign began with disruption for the Swiss winger, as he limped off late into a UEFA Nations League clash with England in June due to a calf problem.

He returned to Melwood for scans the following month, with Jurgen Klopp revealing “it will take a while until he is in again” as it emerged he had suffered a tear, and ultimately he returned for light training at the end of July.

Shaqiri made a sole appearance for the Reds in pre-season, but was involved as a second-half substitute in the Community Shield defeat to Man City in August and in the matchday squad for the following eight games.

Over that period he played just 14 minutes over three outings, though Klopp described him as a “real option” having retrained as a No. 10.

A week later, Shaqiri had suffered another calf tear, which ruled him out of the trip to MK Dons in League Cup and kept him out of action until the start of December.

“We want to give him the time. With a calf injury it is always very high risk, especially with his calves,” Klopp said in October, and this was not aided by further setbacks including a hamstring injury picked up at the end of the year.

Liverpool turned down a January loan bid for the 28-year-old from Roma, with Sevilla also interested, and the manager conceded “we obviously didn’t find the 100 percent solution” to his fitness issues.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Wednesday, December 4, 2019: Liverpool's Xherdan Shaqiri during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Everton FC, the 234th Merseyside Derby, at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

And now, after initially being pencilled in for a return to action at Norwich on February 15, Shaqiri is no closer to returning to first-team training.

“We cannot—we never did, but this time for sure not—put any time pressure on it,” Klopp explained ahead of the visit of West Ham.

“Because it’s obviously a difficult one, never a big one, but always big enough to keep him out for another two or three weeks.

“So we have to just wait. He’s not close to team training.”

It is a strange and no doubt frustrating situation for a player who has regularly stressed his commitment to the club and desire to play, and the arrival of Takumi Minamino in January will only compound this disappointment.

Rumours have pervaded the Liverpool support that he was sidelined for other reasons earlier in the campaign, though it would be remiss to speculate.

For a player of Shaqiri’s build, muscle injuries can be expected, but with the end of the season already looming, there could be few opportunities for the No. 23 remaining ahead of a likely departure in the summer.