Chicago Fire

Xherdan Shaqiri responds to fitness criticisms following Chicago Fire move

Chris Smith
Shaqiri left Lyon for the Fire after just six months.
Shaqiri left Lyon for the Fire after just six months. / John Berry/GettyImages

Xherdan Shaqiri has hit back against critics who believe he's not fit enough to play in Major League Soccer.

The Switzerland international joined the Chicago Fire from Lyon in one of the most high-profile MLS transfers this winter at a cost of $7.5m.

Shaqiri's move was somewhat surprising given he'd only joined Lyon from Liverpool six months earlier. His manager in France, Peter Bosz, even accused him of not being in the best shape when he joined the Ligue 1 club.

Naturally, that has caused a little worry among Fire fans, but speaking to 90min on Wednesday, Shaqiri - who also counts the likes of Bayern Munich and Inter Milan among his former employers - moved quickly to silence his critics.

"To be honest, there was only maybe one game I missed with Lyon this year, so I was playing since [the] summer," Shaqiri said. "I'm fit. I was not injured. My knees, they are top fit, they are good.

"I can play many, many years on the top, and from this point, there are always people who don't like you or critique you. But I don't listen to these guys because I know what I can do. I know what I can bring to this club, to this team. I don't care really about the critics."

Now that he's here and ready to go, Shaqiri's focus is purely on helping the Chicago Fire become a successful team again. CF97 were one of the giants of the league's early years, winning MLS Cup, Supporters' Shield, and US Open Cup titles between 1998 and 2006.

But the Fire have only made the Playoffs twice in the last 12 seasons - a slump Shaqiri aims to help reverse.

"I'm very happy now that I'm here and I'm looking really forward with this club, to drive forward and to be successful in the near future," he said.

On the early impressions of his new club and teammates, he added: "I was impressed with the team, and the players, a lot of young players, talented players.

"They want to work hard, they want to go forward also. I'm really looking forward to starting the season with them, and just to help the team and the club to drive forward win games."

Of course, the Fire head into the 2022 campaign with a new head coach in Ezra Hendrickson and a number of young homegrowns looking to make a big impression.

With Champions League, Premier League, Bundesliga, and Swiss Super League titles under his belt, as well as a mountain of international caps, Shaqiri is the perfect player to lead the Chicago Fire forward into this exciting new era.

"The club wants to go forward and try to bring the glory back to Chicago. So I think it's important now to work hard and to give my experience to these players. To give them the confidence to try to win every game and to be successful."