London 2012

With his low centre of gravity, sublime left-foot and phenomenal dribbling skills, Xherdan Shaqiri has already attracted global attention due to his likeness to icons such as Diego Maradona and Lionel Messi.

If many would consider such comparisons daunting and unhelpful, Shaqiri does not appear to be the sort of person who would be among them.

"I'm a special player," quipped the stocky 20-year-old when quizzed during last year's European Under-21 Championships in Denmark.

Fascinating facts:

  • Shaqiri made his competitive international debut for Switzerland as an 18-year-old in the 2010 World Cup finals against Honduras
  • He was born to ethnic Albanian parents from Kosovo, then Yugoslavia. He moved to Basel, Switzerland as a child

Shaqiri was arguably the star of that tournament, inspiring Switzerland all the way to the final where they were edged out by Spain.

His performances for Basel over the past 12 months have only added to his reputation as he played a leading role in the Swiss club's journey to the knockout stage of the Champions League - eliminating Manchester United in the process.

And the Kosovo-born star's status as one of the most coveted young players in world football was confirmed when German giants Bayern Munich acquired his signature in April.

Bayern coach Jupp Heynckes left nobody in any doubt that the player will have a big role to play at the club in 2012-13.

"Xherdan will strengthen our team next season with his intelligence and his dribbling skills," explained Heynckes.

"I have been watching him for a while now and am convinced that he can become an important player for FC Bayern."

But Heynckes will have to wait before linking up with Shaqiri - as the Swiss sensation has a prior engagement in London this summer.

While that may delay the player's impact at Bayern, it does provide the youngster with the opportunity to light up the London Olympics. And that's something Shaqiri is well capable of doing.

Xherdan Shaqiri

  • DOB: 10/10/91
  • Club: Basel
  • Position: Midfield