“true playmaker, he has enormous quality ” — Hamburg’s international singles out Arsenal Star for praise

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The defender has played alongside the midfielder from the very beginning in the Swiss youth system, and is delighted to see how he has progressed

Hamburg’s Switzerland international Leo Lacroix has heaped praise on Granit Xhaka, calling his international team-mate a “true playmaker” who deserves to be playing for one of football’s elite clubs.

Xhaka, 26, was already considered one of Europe’s most promising midfielders when he swapped Borussia Monchengladbach for the Emirates Stadium in 2016.

He has since become a key part of the Gunners team, playing in every single Premier League game for the club last season and missing just one encounter so far in the current campaign.

Despite his relative young age, the midfielder has also appeared at two World Cups for Switzerland, helping the nation to consecutive knockout stages for the first time since the 1930s; and Lacroix believes his importance to club and country cannot be over-stated.

“I’ve played with [Xhaka] in the Swiss Under-18 and U-19 teams, then he went straight up [to the seniors],” the defender explained to Goal.

“He has enormous quality, he can make the difference with his passing, his ball recovery, his goals, he’s a true playmaker.

“He’s the captain of Switzerland and the team is built around him. He plays as a starter in Arsenal. Everything that happens to him is well deserved because he’s a true worker.”

Lacroix is currently on loan at Hamburg from Saint Etienne, helping the German side in their quest to return instantly to the Bundesliga after suffering an historic relegation in 2017-18.

And he admitted he was pleasantly surprised by the passion shown across the football pyramid in his new home.

“In Germany, stadiums are full from the first to the third division. People really live for football. Even for unknown teams from the lower divisions,” he added.

“There’s a fanbase, a structure in Hamburg but also in other teams. In terms of fan culture, this is very close to what you can experience in England.

“Would I play for Hamburg next year in Bundesliga? Absolutely. I have a clause in my contract and if the team goes back up, I can decide to stay.

“I’ll discuss this with my family when the time comes. For now, I’m focused on the club’s main objective.”

Hamburg currently occupy the summit in 2. Bundesliga, with seven victories in their opening 12 games putting the club two points clear of their nearest challengers, arch-rivals St. Pauli.

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