Defenders have every reason to be concerned when dynamic midfielder Shkelzen Gashi bursts into the opposing penalty area, as the FC Thun rearguard recently found to their cost in the Swiss Super League. The 26-year-old bagged a brace in FC Basel’s 3-0 victory, taking him to the top of the scoring chart on 16 goals so far and confirming that his emergence last term was no flash in the pan: Gashi fired 19 goals last season for Switzerland’s most successful club GC Zurich.
"I always want to do the best I can for my team, so there’s always a certain amount of pressure. I won’t pass judgement on my personal performances until the end of the season, but thanks to the help I get from my team, I’m growing into my current role very well,” the free-scoring Gashi exclusively told FIFA.com. He made no secret of his delight at striking up a productive partnership with Marco Streller, who has just announced his retirement as a player in the summer. "The opportunity of playing alongside Marco Streller has brought me a huge amount and I’m learning from him every day, both as a player and a person. In brief: it’s an honour!“
Fighting spirit and unity
Gashi was taken on by FC Zurich at the tender age of six but never really found his feet. He worked his way through a variety of clubs as a youth and junior pro before FCK’s city rivals GC picked up on his talent and provided him with the stage for a personal breakthrough. His was one of the first names on the team-sheet as the Hoppers ended a lengthy trophy drought in 2013 by claiming a 19th Swiss cup triumph.
Basel monitored the goalscoring midfielder’s progress with increasing interest and brought him on board a year later. "I wanted to live, experience and shape the club with all its facets and opportunities. I also wanted to play in the UEFA Champions League, and I have that chance with FCB,” the player explained.
The influential midfielder is now parading his skills on the full international stage too. The man nicknamed Shkeli made his Albania debut in August 2013, opting to represent his parents’ home country after learning the trade with the Switzerland U-17, U-19 and U-21 teams. "I’m filled with pride when I wear the Albania shirt,” Gashi reported, summing up the special attributes of his chosen national team in two ways: "Fighting spirit and unity within the team."
"You never know what tomorrow brings"
Gashi’s decision to represent the Albanians meant he was reduced to the role of spectator for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™, cheering on his Swiss friends from youth team and club days from afar. Switzerland made it as far as the Round of 16, but Albania failed to survive the qualifying competition.
Prior to the next round of international fixtures, last season’s Swiss league top scorer has another major challenge to tackle, as Basel fight for a berth in the Champions League quarter-finals. The home leg against FC Porto at St Jakob Park ended 1-1, meaning Gashi’s goalscoring instincts could be a crucial factor in the return. The player is convinced he and his team-mates can rise to the occasion provided they keep to a simple recipe for success.
"We’ll give it our best shot as we attempt to reach the quarter-finals. We believe we can do it!” This positive approach also colours his attitude to the future. "I only like to think short-term. You never know what tomorrow brings, but I’d definitely like to win the league and the cup with FCB."