When Stephane Lichtsteiner decides to call it a day for Switzerland, the national team manager is going to have to appoint a new captain, and among the leading candidates will likely be Granit Xhaka.
The midfielder has already represented his country of birth 66 times, scoring 10 goals in the process, and is widely seen as one of Vladimir Petkovic’s key players.
However, for Stéphane Henchoz, who himself played 72 times for Switzerland during his time as a footballer, replacing one Gunner with another would be the wrong move.
He told Blick: “He’s a regular player at Arsenal, but I think a captain must represent Switzerland and the team. Xhaka doesn’t.”
Then asked how he would feel if the national team continued with the likes of Petkovic (born in Sarajevo) at the helm and Xhaka as captain, he said: “This would be a real problem. Players like Sommer, Lichtsteiner or Schär, who represent traditional Switzerland, could feel excluded, just like fans who might not be able to identify with the team. The Swiss players without a migration background and Swiss fans, they would feel marginalised.”
After Gokhan Inler was pushed to one side by Petkovic, Lichtsteiner and Valon Behrami were made captain and vice-captain respectively for the World Cup, with Granit Xhaka third in line, even if that detail was kept rather quiet, according to Blick.
However, since then, the former Watford midfielder has retired from international football, meaning the Arsenal midfielder is the logical candidate for the vice-captaincy. Hence why this is now a hot topic of discussion in Switzerland (especially after Xhaka’s and Shaqiri’s double-headed eagle celebration against Serbia).