Liverpool’s Champions League opponents Red Star Belgrade have warned the Reds’ Swiss star Xherdan Shaqiri that he will be under ‘unbelievable psychological pressure’ when the two sides meet in Serbia in November.
As reported by the Liverpool Echo, Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool have vowed to protect their £13m summer signing from the expected hostility he will face from Red Star supporters.
Shaqiri caused uproar when he celebrated a last-minute winner for Switzerland against Serbia at the World Cup by performing an ‘Albanian Eagle’ gesture towards Serbian fans.
The 26-year-old was born to Kosovar Albanian parents in the once Yugoslav city of Gjilan, which is now a part of Kosovo. Kosovo is a former Serbian province with a strong ethnic Albanian population which declared independence in 2008.
Serbia, however, have failed to recognise that independence, which has caused tense relations between the two countries. Families have consequently emigrated from Kosovo, as the Shaqiri family did back in 1992.
As a result of this conflict, Red Star general director Zvezdan Terzić has admitted that the former Bayern Munich and Inter player is in for a tough time when he comes to the Rejko Mitic Stadium.
In an interview with Kurir, Terzic said: “Personally, I can’t imagine that an Albanian will play for Red Star.
“Red Star is a Serbian club, Partizan (Belgrade) was Yugoslav.
“I think that Shaqiri will be under unbelievable psychological pressure because he will know where he is coming, he knows that the Red Star is a symbol of Serbia and playing the Marakana, I don’t know whether he will play.”
Terzic added however that Red Star will be ‘good hosts’ and look to protect him from possible hostility.
He added: “Of course, as a soccer club, we treat our rivals equally, and we do not have to deal with the past and the history.
“Red Star must do everything to make Shaqiri feel that he came to play football and it is our duty to protect him in the case of unwanted situations. Let’s be good hosts!”