New Arsenal recruit Granit Xhaka claims he is flattered by favourable comparisons with Manchester United midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger, but is eager to continue forging his own identity following a "dream" move to the Premier League. The 23-year-old became Arsene Wenger's first summer signing on Wednesday (25 May), arriving on a long-term deal from Borussia Monchengladbach for an undisclosed fee believed to be in the region of £30m ($44m).
Gunners supporters had been awaiting confirmation of the deal for weeks and the club's official announcement was pre-empted by leaked images over the weekend that clearly showed Xhaka posing for photos in the Gunners' new home kit. The former Basel prodigy has been widely praised after a fine season at Borussia-Park, during which he featured in the group stages of the Champions League and made 36 appearances across all competitions as Andre Schubert's outfit finished fourth in the Bundesliga, following the early exit of predecessor Lucien Favre.
One of the favourable quotes reproduced regarding Xhaka came from former Champions League-winning Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich manager Ottmar Hitzfeld, who, in the middle of his six-year tenure as Switzerland boss, handed the player his international debut. Hitzfeld claimed to see "similarities between Granit and Bastian Schweinsteiger", while praising his maturity, intelligence, anticipation and technical skills.
Responding to such praise in his first official interview with the Arsenal website, Xhaka responded: "If Ottmar Hitzfeld says that then it's a big compliment. Ottmar is a big coach and a good gentleman. I don't know if I'm a young Schweinsteiger, I'm another player. I am Granit Xhaka."
Having been included alongside former Arsenal defenders Johan Djourou and Philippe Senderos in his country's 28-man provisional squad for Euro 2016, 41-cap Xhaka is currently away at a pre-tournament training camp in the southern Swiss city of Lugano. Vladimir Petkovic's side, who finished as runners-up to unbeaten England in qualifying and entertain Belgium and Moldova in upcoming friendlies, have been placed in Group A alongside France, Romania and Albania.
The Kuq e Zinjtë provide their first opposition at the Stade Bollaert-Delelis in Lens on Saturday 11 June. Ex-Bayern stalwart Schweinsteiger, meanwhile, remains the captain of world champions Germany despite a hugely underwhelming maiden campaign at Manchester United, which was prematurely curtailed in March due to a partial tear of the medial collateral ligament in his right knee.