Taulant Xhaka has revealed that he wants to be reunited with brother Granit in the future – and says that the Arsenal midfielder’s dream is to return to FC Basel one day.
The 26-year-old Taulant faced his younger brother when the Gunners played Basel in the Champions League last season and the two have previously pitted their wits against each other at Euro 2016, with the elder Xhaka representing Albania and Granit playing for Switzerland.
Speaking exclusively to Goal, the Basel star admitted his ambition of playing alongside his brother in midfield, while also backing the Arsenal man to overcome his current slump.
“I call Granit four times a week,” said Xhaka. “We talk about general things, not just football. Also, because he is in a difficult phase with Arsenal as well. We exchange tips as well as criticisms to improve ourselves. He helps me and I help him.
“We are different players. Granit is technically stronger than me but the coaches should judge the rest.
“It’s not so easy [to watch Granit’s games] because we often play both on Saturday. When I have the time I try to watch every game Granit plays in.”
The Xhakas spent their teenager years in the youth teams together at Concordia before moving to Basel where Granit, in particular, carved out a name for himself as one of the best midfielders in Switzerland, and Taulant recalls several highlights of their time at Basel together, admitting that he hopes to play in the same team as his brother again one day
“Yes, if not at Arsenal then maybe at FC Basel when he returns to Switzerland. It is my dream to play with my brother again. But whether that's at Arsenal or Basel, it does not matter.
“I believe that he wants to return to Basel at the end of his career because he grew up here and FC Basel is his favourite team. As soon as he has two days off, he comes to Basel and visits his friends and family. There is a very strong bond.
“There are many nice moments. Of course, I like to remember my Champions League debut at Old Trafford at Manchester United, where we drew 3-3. Being able to experience this together with Granit in the same team was a very nice experience for us. As kids we used to spend 24 hours together.”
Basel face Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium in the second leg of their Champions League last-16 tie on Wednesday, trailing 4-0 from a disappointing first leg at St Jakob-Park.
“For me, City is currently the best team in Europe - especially because of Guardiola,” said Xhaka.
“They always want to play, that's impressive. Their passing skills and the physical presence are world class. Kevin De Bruyne and Ilkay Gündogan were my direct opponents in central midfield. You can only learn from such players, they are role models.
“We did not play so bad, City had five shots, four of them were in the net. We were that lucky against Benfica for example. If you are successful, this is how it goes. At the moment we are in a difficult situation, from which we have to free ourselves.
“If they [Man City] keep playing in that way, then they can definitely [win the Champions League]. But you must not forget the big clubs like Real Madrid and Barcelona, which are also among the top favourites for me.
“The current season is not as we have imagined so far. In the league Young Boys are 11 points ahead but we have a game in hand. The season is still going on for a while, there are 12 games left and I think everything is still possible.
Basel’s difficulties in their own domestic league could be compared to Arsenal who have slipped further behind in the Premier League top-four race, with a defeat away to Brighton piling the pressure on under-fire manager Arsene Wenger.
Xhaka believes that it’s hard to pin-point the main reason behind the inconsistencies shown by his own side but remains confident of turning things around.
He said: “There are good and bad stages in football. Many of us have not experienced a phase like this yet.
“We have to look from game to game and just try to play well. But it is difficult to say what the problems are. I think we have to find each other again first. We've got some young and new players, it needs some time until everything fits. The season is still long, so everything is possible.
“We are FC Basel, we are the best club in Switzerland. I do not expect Young Boys to win all 12 remaining games, they also will be stumbling and then we have to take our chance. In addition, we play twice directly against them, which can also be an advantage.”