Manuel Veth –
Bastian Schweinsteiger is headed to the Chicago Fire. A rumour, that has been more or less an open secret for the last few weeks, was finally confirmed last night.
Pending confirmation of his work visa, Schweinsteiger will sign a one-year deal with the Fire that will earn him $4.5 million. Both sides also have an option that can extend the deal for one further season.
The former German national team player sent a video message to Manchester United fans on Tuesday morning, therefore, will be ending his unsuccessful time in England. For Schweinsteiger, the move to England at the end of the 2014-15 season was supposed to herald the step towards becoming a real global superstar.
Schweinsteiger never fully arrived at United
Brought in by former Manchester United head coach, Louis van Gaal, Schweinsteiger struggled with injuries in his first season. What followed was a disappointing European Championships in France where his handball in the dying minutes of the first half in the semi-final against France was the beginning of the end for Germany’s dreams to win the Euros in France.
Back in Manchester, Schweinsteiger was ostracized by new Manchester United manager, José Mourinho. Mourinho stripped Schweinsteiger of the right to train with the first team. Sent to the U-23 squad, Schweinsteiger, however, at no point showed discontent towards Mourinho or the club.
In fact, the German showed the sort of class expected of a true legend of the game. Manchester United and head coach Mourinho, on the other hand, were threatened with losing face over the affair. United seemed to have lost the aura that made the club more than just a team. Instead Mourinho concluded the long journey away from the club full of heart that it had been under Sir Alex Ferguson towards a soulless corporation.
Schweinsteiger, however, was the class act. He worked hard, and even Mourinho, to a certain extent, had to admit that he had been wrong when he fielded Schweinsteiger in Manchester’s EFL Cup win over West Ham United. Here many Manchester United supporters displayed something that seemed to have been lost. They stood up, and celebrated the world champion’s return to the field with a standing ovation.
But even with the fans, and most of the dressing room on his side, it was clear that Schweinsteiger would have to leave Manchester United. Rumours about Bastian Schweinsteiger joining Major League Soccer in general, and the Chicago Fire in particular, have been on the boil since Schweinsteiger met Chicago Fire’s ownership last fall.
The deal, however, has been in the works for much longer. Chicago always hoped that they could land the former German national team player, who retired from die Nationalmannschaft last fall, but Schweinsteiger was still hoping that he could make one last impact for Manchester United.
Mourinho showed no compassion
With Mourinho unmoved, however, the German decided that the time for a move was now—and, in many ways, this might be perfect timing. The former German national team captain has, after all, worked hard to regain his form in order to feature once again for United. Schweinsteiger is, therefore, considered fit, which was one of the reasons why many of his United teammates were lobbying for him to return to the squad.
His fitness, therefore, should not be a problem, which will mean that he could make an instant impact for Chicago Fire. Many will, of course, remember the force he was in the 2014 World Cup final where he guided the national team to victory with his physical presence. Chicago will now hope that he can bring this kind of force to Major League Soccer.
His time in Manchester, and the way he swallowed his pride for the greater good of the club, has also meant that Schweinsteiger will arrive with an aura of a true global superstar whose reputation is still intact. His move to Chicago, in fact, will be a milestone for Bastian Schweinsteiger, as he now has the chance to develop a brand name that goes way beyond football.
Chicago as such will prove to be a good choice as well. The Fire are a sleeping giant. The club, which finished last in Major League Soccer last season, have not won a title since they won the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup in 2006. Fans of the club will have to go even further back when it comes to MLS Cup glory. Here the club won their only title in 1998.
Schweinsteiger could now go a long way to bring back a winning mentality to the club. At just 32-years old and relatively rested, Schweinsteiger will want to show the world that he can still make a major impact. Furthermore, Schweinsteiger will also have the ambition to be mentioned along the lines of fellow Bavarian, Franz Beckenbauer, who had a strong influence, both on and off the field, when it came to growing football, or soccer, in the United States.
Manuel Veth is a freelance journalist, and podcaster for WorldFootballIndex.com. He is also a holder of a Doctorate of Philosophy in History from King’s College London, and his thesis is titled: “Selling the People’s Game: Football’s transition from Communism to Capitalism in the Soviet Union and its Successor States”, which will be available in print soon. Originally from Munich, Manuel has lived in Amsterdam, Kyiv, Moscow, Tbilisi, London, and currently is located in Victoria BC, Canada. Follow Manuel on Twitter @homosovieticus.