The bidding war is over, the dust has settled, and for once, Inter Milan has won. Xherdan Shaqiri, the 23-year-old Switzerland international star who fell out of favor at Bayern Munich is set to become a nerazzurri player according to Bayern, flying in to Milan tonight ahead of a medical tomorrow. The deal is reported in Germany to be an initial loan with a purchase option that could take the total fee up to €18m.
The signing is a coup for Roberto Mancini's embattled side, as Shaqiri instantly becomes their best attacker outside of Mauro Icardi. With Mancini slowly trying to make Inter a more dangerous attacking side after taking over the club's managerial post in November, Shaqiri goes a long ways towards helping do just that.
But one question remains: why did Shaqiri choose Inter?
Yes, Inter has a long history of success and a large, passionate fanbase. It's been several years since the nerazzurri have even been relevant in Italy, though, generally winding up closer to midtable than they do to being in the title race. Simply put, they haven't been very good since they won their last Scudetto in 2010. Shaqiri is good, but he's probably not good enough to push them back in to contention all on his own. Inter's got too many problems right now for that.
It's not like Inter can pay him wages higher than anyone else, either. Juventus were reportedly very interested in bringing in Shaqiri -- they can offer wages at least as high as Inter's, and are the team in Italy who actually are winning titles. Given Max Allegri's seeming desire to push his side to more of a 4-3-3 type of shape than Antonio Conte's old 3-5-2, Shaqiri would be a perfect fit for that vision.
Then there's Liverpool, among other clubs interested in England. They can offer much higher wages than their Italian competitors thanks to the much strong financial backbone feeding Premier League clubs compared to Serie A incomes. Their need for Shaqiri is also just as pronounced, with too many players in their attack either hurt or out of form, and they've been trying to get him off and on since before he joined Bayern in the first place.
So why did Shaqiri choose Inter over options that make more sense for him both in terms of on-field success and financial gain? The only option that makes sense at first blush is this: at Inter, he can become the man. The headline star. The key cog that makes everything else work. At the other clubs, he'd be a major player, but not a central figure.
At Inter, though, Shaqiri is coming in mere months after several club legends departed the team, leaving a vacuum of leadership on the pitch and beloved players for the fans. Players like Icardi and Mateo Kovacic have the talent to fill that void, but Shaqiri has much more impressive strength of personality than they do to go along with their level of footballing ability.
Of course, what the other implications that reasoning creates are a little stickier. Is Shaqiri's ego, his need to be adored or focused on or whatever else, really so strong that he'd risk the success of his career just to be "the guy" at a big club that's struggling for success? Sure, if Shaqiri can help lead Inter back to glory he'd be a hero, but -- that's a really, really big if. Hopefully the risk of losing out on titles and Champions League glory is worth it to him.