With strong rumours linking Borussia Mönchengladbach’s Granit Xhaka with a big money move to Arsenal, some connoisseurs of English football have already expressed concerns over the quality of the Swiss deep-lying playmaker.
Gary Lineker said via Twitter that Xhaka is "twice as expensive and half as good" as Leicester's N'Golo Kante, claiming he watched Xhaka "a lot". Apart from the matter of fact that Kante and Xhaka are totally different players – on the one hand the aggressive Frenchman, an energetic ball winner – on the other hand Xhaka, who prefers to navigate the game from a deeper position, there is one man who probably wouldn’t agree with Lineker in this particular case.
Sport Witness talked to former Bayern Munich player Thorsten Fink, who discovered Xhaka at FC Basel in 2010, whilst he was manager of the Swiss club.
"I started to use Granit in the first team at the age of 17. The first thing I noticed was his huge self-confidence. This is probably still his greatest strength. That attribute combined with his left foot, his size and his vision makes him a very special player," recollects Fink, 48, who later went on to coach Hamburg SV and is currently on Austria Vienna's payroll.
"He is a young player, but still a leader on and off the pitch – a quality very hard to find. I can’t praise Granit highly enough. If he continues with the hard work, he is going to be a great player."
Fink is clearly proud of his former protégée and went on to explain "I’m happy that I had him as a player. We had a good time together, it’s not a coincidence that I introduced him at the age of 17. He is a fearless, classy player."
Fink used to play in defensive midfield for Bayern Munich, winning a bagful of trophies, so he's speaking with some authority and knows what it takes for success at the highest level.
Well aware of the rumours linking the 23 year old with Arsenal, Fink remembered a special Champions League night in 2011, when Basel exasperated Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United.
"When we took that 3-3 draw from Manchester United back in 2011, Granit was one of the few players in the dressing room who where gutted, even though it was a fantastic result for Basel. It shows what Granit wants to achieve. He wants everything and is never satisfied. A great player, every coach wants to have this in his team."
Xhaka introduced himself on that Tuesday night on the biggest stage of European football. One year later, in 2012, Borussia Mönchengladbach signed him for approximately £7m. Now Xhaka is ready for the next step, with a move to Arsenal imminent, according to German media.
Perhaps it's the next logical step for a young footballer who wants it all, and one which would no doubt leave Fink even prouder of the boy he threw into Basel's team at just 17.Tweet